Inspiring Young Readers

posted on 09 Jan 2024

Northern Soul by Phil Earle

We’re great fans of Phil Earle here at the Letterpress Project. You’ll find a very interesting interview with him here and if you search under his name you’ll also come across several other reviews of his books. I can say right at the outset that this latest offering, Northern Soul, published by the good folks at Barrington Stoke, doesn’t disappoint.

I should also say that the book, aimed at the 11+ reader, is likely to bring back some cringe-worthy memories for parents and teachers who read it too. Earle is upfront about the semi-autobiographical nature of this story of early infatuation because he prefaces the story thus:

“Whilst some of the story that follows is made up, some of it, I’m afraid, is not. 

Some of it happened to me…I’ll let you guess which bits. Be kind….”

Up to now, Marv’s life has been pretty straight-forward - a best mate, Jimmy and plenty of football. But all of this goes up in smoke in just a moment - the minute Carly Stonehouse walks into his life as a new arrival at the school and he's suddenly love-struck. But Marv has all the confidence and social skills of a nervous field-mouse and the turmoil of this new set of feelings just makes his gaucheness even worse. What are these new feelings? Love?

He needs help. But turning to his Dad doesn’t seem like the answer. Good God, how can you get emotional support from a man who wears Crocs seriously? But, unexpectedly, his Dad provides an unconventional bit of support - he owns a record shop and Marv is exposed for the first time to the joys of Otis Redding, the King of Soul.

Marv is knocked out by the songs - surely they are being sung especially for him. This cool, handsome man must know all there is to know about the perils and pitfalls of romance. Is this the man to help Marv and put him on the right path?

When Otis suddenly appears in person in Marv’s bedroom he’s not quite the man he expected: he’s a cool singer alright but he’s also obsessed with gobbling down fast food and, when push comes to shove, his lyrics might leave a bit to be desired. He’s also responsible for Marv’s terrible humiliation when at a party he finally gets to kiss the unobtainable Carly - the King of Soul accidentally knocks the two of them over and Carly’s teeth and Marv’s tooth brace get entangled and bloody.

You can read how all this ends for Marv - and Carly and Jimmy - when you get your own copy because you'll want to discover the laughs for yourself . Oh yes, you’ll laugh alright but if you’re over 20 years old, you’ll be laughing with the discomfort of nervous recognition.

Available now from Barrington Stoke, you should be able to get this from your local independent bookshop - who will be happy to order it for you if they don’t have copies on the shelf.


Terry Potter

January 2024