All Charlene wants to do is see her little sister, Kandi, again. They were separated when their mum died, and now she’s in the care system, passed from pillar to post. Her behaviour deteriorating with every new school and home she finds herself in, she strives to get her family unit back together – no matter what the consequences of her actions bring.
Knitting is the only thing that calms her – the feel of the soft wool as she expertly glides the needles through each stitch, creates a blanket she hopes to give to Kandi, the next time they meet. But nothing in her world is certain.
Anger and resentment towards the lack of contact with the only person she truly loves, spirals within Charlene as she is continuously denied access. It finally boils over and she ends up in serious trouble. Taken into custody after an altercation with her foster mum’s son, her future is on the line. Her actions have gone too far this time and she’s processed at the station and placed in a cell.
Alone within the confines of the station walls, Charlene is overwhelmed with feelings she tries to suppress as the authorities decide where she goes next. Another home? As assumptions are made, she’s written off as another fostered Black teen in trouble with the authorities. With no-one talking the slightest interest in her story, all Charlene cares about is that it’s yet another day without Kandi.
In turmoil, she can’t find it within her to say sorry for the things she’s done. In her eyes, it won’t make any difference.
It’s only when an understanding and approachable social worker, Shelley, enters her life, does Charlene get the chance to tell her side of the story. As the words finally come tumbling out, it’s a liberating experience for her and she begins to breathe a little easier, much like when she knits and the form of a blanket begins to flow down onto her lap.
Patrice Lawrence’s story of remorse, the fundamental workings of the care system and ultimately redemption, is a hard-hitting reminder of the children and young adults lost without a voice in a sometimes unforgiving bureaucracy.
Bringing Charlene to life on the page, with all her frustrations but also her strong determination to see her sibling again, hooks the reader in from the first page. As Charlene’s story unfolds, assumptions are made, and questioned, throughout this truly life-affirming story of a family bond that must remain intact if she’s to survive the predicaments she unwillingly finds herself in.
There’s things in life we can sometimes take for granted… a safe home, a caring family, a future… to name but a few. Publisher, Barrington Stoke, along with Patrice and so many other creatives they’ve collaborated with over the years, have once again provided an accessible publication in a format for all. Not only that, through story, they’ve given the chance for kids like Charlene to be heard. ‘Sorry, not sorry’ is written at the top of the superb cover illustration by Andy Gellenberg. Three words that say so much.