How far would you go to fit in?
'The After School Crime Club' is an excellent contemporary story about finding our perfect selves through grief and difficult friendships. As with Hayley Webster's first book for children, 'Luna Rae is Not Alone', 'The After School Crime Club' is authentic, warm and wise.
Willow has always felt like an outsider at school, but she and her Nanna were so alike that she never felt alone. Now Nanna is gone and Willow is adrift. So when a group of girls offer her friendship in exchange for "fun" stealing dares, Willow can't say no. But as the dares escalate, she has to ask herself: How far will she go to fit in?
What I really notice about Hayley Webster's writing, much like Cath Howe's, is the astute, authentic ability in understanding children, their behaviour and the dynamics in their relationships. Hayley Webster just gets children, and as a teacher myself, the story completely resonates with what I see and hear on a daily basis. I once read an extract of 'Luna Rae' in an assembly and children were really absorbed, and then they wanted to borrow the book from me!
Here, Willow is totally alive and real on every page. She shows traits of neuro-divergence (though perhaps undiagnosed) and her desperate seeking of approval in friendships (through stealing) is both endearing and painful, making her final self-acceptance all the more fulfilling. This would make for great discussion in Key Stage Two classes about the lengths children go to in order to get attention, and how blindly following others without advocating for yourself can be so toxic and harmful.
I really enjoy Hayley Webster's books. Her writing is sharp and insightful, offering authentic snapshots into the lives of children. desperately trying to find themselves against the backdrop of busy schools and turbulent home lives.