When Jazmin’s best friend Becky jumped off a building it changed Jazmin’s life forever – but not in the way you might think. Because Becky disappeared before she hit the ground, just winked out of the sky as if she had never existed. And ever since it happened Jazmin’s world has fallen apart, she is shunned and ridiculed and treated with suspicion because people think she has either lost the plot or had something sinister to do with Becky’s disappearance. But Jazmin knows the truth, and it involves a weirdly charismatic and never-ageing man named Icarus who can allegedly walk through walls and was in the vicinity when two other people jumped off the roof of St. Paul’s Cathedral twenty years earlier. Because Icarus is an alien, with a very unique reason for coming to Earth.
My Side of the Diamond is a completely schizophrenic YA fantasy that is well written, beautifully presented, very nicely illustrated and absolutely baffling. The way author Sally Gardner unwinds her story and juggles the various point-of-views of her characters as they are interviewed by the mysterious ‘Mr Jones’ is sometimes very clever but (more often) too cryptic and self-consciously weird to make this a wholly satisfying experience. Is this a romance with sci-fi elements, an X-Files-meets-Men in Black-style alien invasion thriller, or a time travel tale about love and friendship with a killer cyborg that materialises out of a pantry? Or maybe it’s just a trying-too-hard examination of mental illness, social disparity and what it means to be human as seen through the prism of a prickly conspiracy theorist who’s being chased around by a PG version of The Terminator? Or could it be a sneaky re-envisioning of The Man Who Fell to Earth where the humans fall to Earth instead (or do they?) So many questions, and most likely it’s all of the above.
The fact that after finishing the book and sleeping on it overnight (no, I didn’t actually sleep on the book – you know what I mean) I’m still not clear about what I just read probably tells you all you need to know. Except it doesn’t because I didn’t hate reading it. If you’re tuned into Sally Gardner’s frequency I’m pretty sure there’s a lot about My Side of the Diamond which is ingenious and innovative and well-worth engaging with, and the fact I’m still thinking about it and seriously considering giving it another go after my headache wears off isn’t exactly a bad sign. Personally, though, this writer likes his alien stories a little less obtuse and a lot more down to Earth. This is unfortunately too odd to wholeheartedly recommend.
MY SIDE OF THE DIAMOND / AUTHOR: SALLY GARDNER / PUBLISHER: HOT KEY BOOKS / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW