Boy Number 26

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 16 Jan 2019

Member Reviews

The hard thing about reviewing Boy Number 26 is that it is Rhattigan's story of his own childhood. This book is difficult to read because Tommy spends most of his childhood suffering mental, physical and sexual abuse. 
Tommy's tale made me feel sadness, compassion and anger at the adults who failed him.


Thank you to NetGalley, Mirror Books and Tommy Rhattigan for providing an eARC in exchange for an honest review.
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This is a very upsetting  tale, i spent most of the book attached to tissues , a really hard read but you are a very brave and inspirational person and i hope reading this will help others, all the best for the future
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*thank you to Netgalley, Tommy Rhattigan and Mirror Books for an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review*

3 stars.

This was such a rough read. Its very heart felt, very honest, and very raw. Its emotional and not for those who are extremely sensitive as this is a really heartbreaking story. It really gets to you you know when you read a story such as this. That there are people out there that are real monsters. One day I hope we live in a world where issues such as mentioned in this book, are only the stuff of nightmares.

The reason I've given this 3 stars, which is still good, is because it wasnt exactly my style of writing. Dont get me wrong, it wasn't badly written, just not my type thats all.
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This is an autobiography of Tommy Rhattigan’s childhood in Liverpool.  What a sad, sad story.  Mr. Rhattigan’s acknowledgement at the book’s end summarizes the theme of the book, in part:  

“For years I have suffered in silence with my mental health.  …   Having taken a massive overdose of drugs at the age of 15…   teaching me coping strategies, such as recognizing the issues and talking them through.  Or avoiding “trigger” situations at all costs.  …  difficult to live a “normal” life when you’ve had no control over the start of it…  never-ending spiral of self-harm.  Alcohol abuse.  Drug abuse.  Self-hatred.  Guilt.  Shame and suicidal ideation.“   

Tommy was one of 13 children whose “Daddy in prison and Mammy constantly disappearing.”  Tommy was especially close to his brother, Martin.  With parental neglect, Tommy and Martin “… felt abandoned, cold, and devoid of any feeling” and “always hungry, … snatched up a stale piece … picking off the worst of the green mould …”  “Mammy and Daddy, both being alcoholics, had abandoned the whole family late last year, leaving us to fend for ourselves.”
  
From Tommy and Martin’s perspective, while running on the streets and trying to survive, people ignored the children.  “It was difficult to understand how people, well fed and comfortable in their warm houses, could look into the eyes of hungry children and suddenly go blind.  But that is what seemed to have happened.  For them, it had been all to easy to not see us.”  

While the children are to be provided for and protected in the system, the opposite occurs in this story:  “… but it was easy to run away and hide from trouble.  Daddy was the one who’d caused most of our anguish, when he was drunk.  But it was only a matter of keeping out of his way until he was sober again.  Here, in St. Vincent’s, I felt unsafe almost every single day.”   Martin and Tommy bounced from institution to institution due to out of control behaviors.  The two boys always wanted to be reunited with their parents and siblings:   “Our expectations that we would be moved on quickly to Nazareth House to join our siblings, as originally mentioned by Social Services, never materialized.  Longing to be reunited with our brothers and sisters…”  
At one point, Martin and Tommy are separated and placed in different facilities.  “… we learnt we were going to be separated for our own good and sent to different homes.”  Tommy was devastated.  “They’d taken my brother away from me.  They’d ripped open my chest, grabbed at my heart and squeezed it so tightly that the pain was unbearable.  How could they?  How could people who say they only want the best for the child and to make that child happy do such a thing?  I was broken.”  “… we had become cared-for children for the first time in our lives.  It meant nothing to us at all.”  “He wasn’t just my brother, he was my best friend, my life.”
Life in the homes:  “I was a cared-for child, but I was not cared about.  I was tagged with the number 26, which was stamped everywhere bar my forehead…”  “The reality of my life and the lives of the boys I was living among was that we had no futures.  We lived only for the days we found ourselves in.  Yesterday was already done and dusted, and tomorrow didn’t exist.”  

Physical, verbal and sexual abuse is rampant throughout the book in multiple institutions.   Abuse by caretakers and other children.  

Tommy didn’t trust anyone – adult or child.  He was in constant survival mode.  “I not only hated, loathed, and despised most of my peers and the adults around me.  I had come to hate, loathe and despised myself.  I’d been getting these sudden urges to cut my wrists or throw myself out of an upstairs window.”  There was no affection or love experienced.  “Torture was an acceptable part of the game, especially when attempting to extract information from a prisoner.”  “True friends are like diamonds, Precious and Rare.  False friends are like Autumn leaves, found everywhere.”  

The facilities barely provided minimal care for the children.  Education was also minimal.   “Our lack of schooling had left us with a somewhat stunted vocabulary.”  “Children in general are quick learners.  But children growing up in institutions such as ours inevitably had to be much quicker.” 
 
 Fortunately, the book’s ending is Tommy is reunited with his brother and family but what a horrible childhood of neglect and abuse.   “… if this short stay over the Christmas period went well, we would probably be able to come home permanently.”

This book constantly tugs at the reader's heart strings for the injustice and hardships the children endured.  I recommend this book for anyone interested in social work, child neglect or related topics.
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Heartbreaking true story I really felt for that little boy. 
Pushed about to horrendous places when  he'd done nothing wrong.
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When I got this book for review I honestly had no earthly idea that it was the sequel to another book the author had written. While that didn't necessarily make it difficult to understand, I do wish I had read the first one so I had a better understanding of the characters. I felt like I lost a lot, and that ultimately it made the story a little less for me.

While I feel for Tommy Rhattigan and the horrible sexual and physical abuse he suffered as a child, his writing style didn't resonate well with me. It felt weirdly choppy? That is likely just me though, as we all have our preferences and that's okay! It's not badly written, just not a style I care for on a personal level.

That does not, however, take away from the story itself. The things that Rhattigan suffered were horrendous, things no child should ever have to go through. I felt for him during those harder parts of the story, and I can see why writing about it would be therapeutic in a way. Also while reading this I kept thinking about the movie Sleepers. Did anyone else get that same sort of vibe or was it just me?
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When little Tommy Rhattigan was taken in care he was just over Seven years old .
He also had suffered sexual abuse 
Moved from one place to another he was annoyed 
He always played pranks and always stuck his two fingers up . 
I had an ARC from Mirror books
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Boy Number 26 by author Tommy Rhattigan is a heart wrenching story of a child in care. Being in state care doesn’t mean the child is cared for. A great story!
Thank you Netgalley and the publisher for an ARC copy of Boy Number 26 in exchange for an honest review.
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