He’s a household name . . . without a home.
Jake is an actor, a household name thanks to his role on the UK’s most popular soap. But his character went upstairs to his bedroom six months ago and never came down again, and now Jake is facing an uncertain future. Add to that his dad’s anger issues, the family’s precarious finances and the demands of a severely autistic brother; Jake’s home feels like a powder keg waiting to explode. It’s easier to spend nights on friends’ sofas and futons, but what happens when you feel like a cuckoo in every nest?
Cuckoo is a novel about the roles we play when we don’t fit in anywhere, and finding unlikely solace when home is the least welcoming place of all.
As I was reading this, the word that kept coming to mind was ‘wow’. Literally. It was that good. I decided to read Cuckoo after an excellent panel on technology in YA during the YA Takeover (which I wrote a recap of), which Keren David was one of the authors for, and what an excellent decision it was!
Cuckoo wasn’t an ordinary novel; it was told through transcripts of a web series made by the protagonist, Jake, in which he tried to explain why the soap opera Market Square was cancelled. I have never read any books written in this style before, and it was such a fantastic way to present the story. It took a chapter or two (or, as they were called in the book, an episode or two) to get used to, but once I’d adapted, I really got into the unique narrative style.
Not only were there transcripts, but there was also comments included underneath every episode. Because the commenters already knew about all the events that had taken place, there was a sense of intrigue, as some of the comments hinted at things that the reader didn’t know about yet. There were also some commenters who were irrelevant to the plot, but made the comments seem authentic – like a fangirl who was besotted with Jake, a dedicated fan of the show who only really wanted information about what would’ve happened if it hadn’t been cancelled, concerned parents weighing in with their opinion on the situation. It really gave depth to the idea of presenting the book through transcripts, and was very entertaining. Some of the comments and the style in which the story was presented implied that events may not have occurred exactly as Jake described, which added to the intrigue around the story, although at times I was a little frustrated that we would never get to know the real version of events.
I also loved the book because it was so emotive. My heart ached for Jake the entire time I was reading the book, as his situation was very difficult, and there didn’t seem to be any easy way out. A wide range of things were covered in the book, from autism and anger issues to unemployment and homelessness, and I thought Keren David tackled these well. There was also a lot of diversity within the book – there were multiple characters who identified as LGBTQ+, as well as people of colour, and there was even discussion among characters that the soap opera, Market Square, hadn’t been diverse enough. This was great to see, as diversity is something that books often lack, but Cuckoo was exceptional in embracing this.
Overall, I absolutely loved Cuckoo; as it’s been the summer holidays, I’ve been reading a lot recently, and Cuckoo definitely stands out as a particularly fantastic book. I would definitely recommend it!