WASTED was longlisted for the Carnegie Medal; winner of the Scottish Children’s Book Award (older readers); winner of the Coventry “Read it or Else” award; winner of the RED award; runner-up and Highly Commended in the North East Book Award; shortlisted for the Manchester, Grampian, Angus, Southern Schools, Stockport and Salford awards.
Published by Walker Books in 2010.
Piece in the Scotsman about the Scottish Children’s Book Award.
Five-star reviews on Amazon – here
Article/review in Lothian Life – here
My favourite comment, from Isla, 14: “I have never read anything like it before. …. It makes your mind boggle! It was gripping and also slightly eerie, what with Kelly and her gang and the knives and the fortune-teller, Farantella. A unique idea!”
There is so much behind the book that I set up the special blog to discuss ALL the themes.
About the book: Wasted is about luck, chance, risk, fate, danger, passion, hate, alcohol, music, and why leaving the house a few seconds later could change your life.
Jack worships luck and decides his actions by the flip of a coin. No risk is too great if the coin demands it. Luck brings him Jess, a beautiful singer who will change his life. But Jack’s luck is running out, and soon the stakes are high. As chance and choice unravel, the risks of Jack’s game become terrifyingly clear. An evening of heady recklessness, and suddenly a life hangs in the balance, decided by the toss of a coin. In the end, it is the reader who must choose whether to spin that coin and determine: life or death.
A couple of times during the book, we see alternative scenarios unfold. When I was writing it, I tossed a coin to “choose” which scene to go with. Here’s an example: Imagine the scene: Jack and Jess in a club, eyes only for each other. An enemy, Kelly, waits her moment to spike Jess’s drink. Another girl is outside, trying to get past the bouncer, who may or may not let her in. He might be distracted or annoyed: such small things will make all the difference. If she gets in, she’ll distract Jess’s friends and they won’t see the drink being spiked. If she doesn’t get in, Jess’s friends will see what happens and save her.
In WASTED, you see alternative possibilities unfold and disappear as the lives of Jack and Jess spin out of control. Finally, it is you who must take the risk and toss a coin to determine the ending. Their lives are in your hands.
The main characters: Jack and Jess: I love Jack and Jess. They are brilliant at music – Jack has a band and Jess joins it as the singer. Jess is gorgeous – amazing half-Italian-half-Norwegian eyes and skin, and Jack is one of those trendy musical types with a clever hair-style and poetic eyes. They meet by chance (and you see exactly how those chances coincide to create a meeting that easily might not have happened) and fancy each other immediately. They are strong, clever, and very ready to leave school and fly out into the world – and in fact, they will both finish school in two weeks. But their lives are not perfect. Jess’s mother is becoming an alcoholic and Jess is worried – Jess’s father left years ago and she knows that her mother is terrified about Jess leaving home. Jess loves her mother – an artist, floaty, flighty, dippy, fragile – but wishes she could be stronger.
Jack is obsessed by luck, risk and chance. He was very unlucky as a young child – his mother died twice, by horribly bad luck, which wouldn’t have happened if Jack hadn’t been there. Although it wasn’t his fault, he can’t help thinking about how easily she might not have died. This obsesses him, so now, aged 18, he often sacrifices himself to luck – by tossing a coin and promising to do whatever the coin says, however dangerous. This is how he thinks he keeps himself lucky, and he thinks that Jess coming into his life is proof of his system, proof that if you spin the coin the right way, make the right choices, take the right turnings, luck will follow.
But Jack’s luck is about to run out, horribly and terrifyingly. And only chance can save him – but will it? At the end of the book I present two endings and before you read them you have to toss a coin to determine the ending for Jack and Jess. Life or death. But you find that it’s not as simple as life or death. You may find that there’s no such thing as luck, or chance, or choice. Which is a scary thought, but Jack and Jess are strong enough to think that deeply.
Amanda Craig in The Times: “… a gripping, original and stylish read that should cheer teens up by making them sob their eyes out.”
Cat Anderson, Bookseller: “This book feels like a stroke of genius, combining a fast-paced story with romance and danger, success and family drama alongside some seriously thought-provoking happenstance. Fantastic.”
Vanessa Robertson, Bookseller: “Wasted is an outstanding book. If it doesn’t sell hugely and win awards … there’s no justice.”
Clare Donaldson, parent and reader: “WOW! I was riveted, from the brilliant first chapter right through to the end. Sinister, chilling, contemporary, pacy, thought-provoking and highly original in presentation – if you don’t have huge success with this there is something VERY wrong with the market. My daughter, at 13, also raced through it and I was fascinated to see how excited she was by it – it’s a while since I’ve seen that particular response from her.”
Nikki Heath, school librarian: “Oh, my gawd, Nicola! Your book arrived at work today and I brought it home to read. It was supposed to last the weekend but I just could not bring myself to put it down and only reluctantly did so to cook tea. I adore it. Love the apparent randomness that isn’t, the sadness of the 2 mums and the alcoholic mum theme. 2 kids who could have been incredibly messed up but aren’t. Would happily give it to both girls and lads. Want to go read it again NOW. It’ll fly off the shelves! It’s such a different format to others out there in a way and I LOVE it!! It’s just such a shame we broke up yesterday as I can think of at least 40 kids I want to give it to who I know will love it and tell others about it!”
Linzi Heads, school librarian: “Wow!”
Iffath at lovereadingx blog: “You are a genius! Wasted is awesome!”
Catherine Hughes, reader with teenagers: “I absolutely adored this book. … Nicola tells me that she isn’t a singer and yet she writes about how it feels to be able to sing with such authenticity and feeling that it brought tears to my eyes. … Middle daughter (13) read ‘Wasted’ at the highest speed I’ve yet seen her devour a book. She was absolutely fascinated. Her favourite character was Jack, but she too recognised how-it-feels-to-sing. And we’ve had a few philosophical discussions prompted by what she’s read in the book.”
Isla, 14: “I think perhaps you should send a copy to my English teacher, to show her what kind of great books teenagers of this day and age should be reading!”