Stan is 13 and struggling at a new school when he meets Charlie. Complete opposites, they click and become good friends despite their differences. Stan is struggling with bullies whereas Charlie knows exactly how to stand up for himself and helps to show Stan how to gain confidence. Both know what it means to be an outsider, and it’s that common ground that pulls them towards each other even more.
10 years later and the book changes to be written from Charlie’s perspective. Both the boys have moved on from Newford and found their own ways in life as young adults. The tone of the book really changes at this point and there is a feeling of despair as the reality of the differences in their situations unfolds. There are no longer any high school bullies, but full grown adults and the systemic biases they carry. The focus turns to discrimination, the sense of belonging, and of what home really means.
Naomi Ishiguro brings characters to life that I’ve not really come across in other books. Charlie’s background is something that many authors would shy away from and I found it to be refreshing to have a view into his lifestyle without judgement. She brings empathy to his situation, an understanding of what family means to him, and shows the impossible situation he is in when dealing with discrimination. Charlie often feels conflict between how he was raised and what society wants from him, and Noami helps the reader to experience this right alongside him. This is a powerful coming of age story of friendship, family and loyalty in the face of awful discrimination.
I received my copy from the publisher via NetGalley. You can buy a copy here Common Ground on Amazon