A literary journey
Nostalgic Irish prose
Irish culture & folklore
Ulster-Scots short stories
What could I have written at the age of 20?
That was my first thought after reading Trace This Scar.
My second was “Watch this space!”
Jessikah Hope Stenson, a name replete with expectations, is living the dream that most authors are too afraid to live at the age of twenty.
And Jessikah Hope Stenson knows how to tell a story.
Trace This Scar is the first young adult novel I’ve read since being a young adult, and there’s nothing like seeing the world through a twenty year-old’s eyes to make you feel young and adventurous again.
I would never pick up a thriller or a crime novel. I prefer character-led novels set in foreign shores with sweeping metaphors and grand vistas. In fact, I’m quite happy to read novels with no action at all as long as the words are beautiful. That’s the forty-one year-old me.
The twenty-year-old me indulged in spy novels, subscribed to a weekly crime magazine and dreamed of being the next Kate Adie. If that girl had had the courage to write a novel at the age of twenty, what genre of novel might she have produced? Could she have written a gritty, urban thriller like Trace This Scar?
Trace This Scar traces the relationship between Daphne, a woman who lives in a stinking flat and who claws her way through life, stale sandwiches and people, and Jamie, an overgrown teenager who can’t hold down a job or find his own feet. The technique of switching voices in the first person is a great success, the male and female perspectives lending a sense of buoyancy to the narrative.
The romantic relationship between Daphne and Jamie is, at times, a little challenging to follow, but the novel moves so swiftly that there’s no time to dilly dally or pose questions about what you believe or don’t believe. There are things that niggle, like how Daphne functions so well in the workplace and not at home, and how she has managed to sustain the friendship with her boss, but Daphne sucks you into her her strange life on the margins of humanity and into her strange flat on the margins of society in a way that makes the irrational rational. When the full truth is revealed, it is surprisingly believable.
Jessikah Hope Stenson has a control over language that dazzles in those fast paced action scenes where blood is splattered and punches thrown. Daphne’s character is revealed perfectly through this compelling urban voice, particularly when she is in prison. There are a few technical issues with regard to tense, but Trace This Scar is an accomplished novel with a memorable female protagonist and an imaginative plot-line. Jessikah Hope Stenson has all the expertise of a skilled writer and all the benefits of a youthful imagination.
Trace This Scar is available here.
Angeline King is the author of A Belfast Tale and Snugville Street.
82 Waterloo Road
The Teacher Voice
The Last Day of Summer Scheme
Uniquely Girls' Brigade
The Children of Latharna
The Band Stick
The Bully up the Brae
A dander around Larne
History & folklore
The Protestant in Irish Fiction.
The Protestant in Irish fiction - the novels.
Ulster-Scots in Irish Fiction
The reality of being an author.
Learning the Irish Language.
John Hewitt Summer School