Cover Image: Barry Squires, Full Tilt

Barry Squires, Full Tilt

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BARRY SQUIRES, FULL TILT is one of the more memorable and engaging Young Adult novels I have read. 
Set in 1995 St. John’s Newfoundland, Finbar T Squires also known as Barry is twelve years old. After seeing a performance by the Full Tilt Dancers there is nothing Barry wants more than to become one of them. In an effort to ace an audition with the dance troupe Barry watches Riverdance. While confident he will become a dancer his parents and siblings don’t necessarily agree after Barry gives them a preview performance. 
Barry has some problems. He has a hard time focusing in school. He is teased non stop by his classmates because of the port wine stain on his face. While Barry makes some effort to ignore the teasing his temper gets the better of him and ends of retaliating with physical force. For that reason Barry ends up spending most of his days in the principals’ office. 
Being such an outgoing and quirky character Barry does have some friends. Granny Squires, his grandmother is one of his staunchest supporters. “Even Steven” a homeless rock musician and the folks at the geriatric home count among his friends. While taking his baby brother Gord for his daily walk Barry meets Saibal. They become immediate friends and get up to all sorts of mischief.
BARRY SQUIRES, FULL TILT made me laugh out loud and it also made me shed more than a couple of tears. I am always in awe of writers who can evoke such a range of emotions with words. Heather Smith is a gifted writer. Loved, loved this book. 
Thank you to Penguin Random House Canada for the opportunity to read an advanced ebook of BARRY SQUIRES, FULL TILT.
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Barry Squires wants to find something to define his life, other than the birthmark on his face. He decides he wants to join the Full Tilt Dancers, a river dance team in St. John’s, Newfoundland. Barry gains the support of his friends and family on his quest to become a Full Tilt dancer, until tragedy strikes his family, changing their dynamic.

I loved the Newfoundland experience in this book. I went to Newfoundland for the first time last year, and this story reminded me so much of that trip. There were hilarious sayings throughout the story, such as what Barry says to his homeless friend about his principal one day: “‘She had a face on her like a smacked arse,’ I said. ‘That woman is as crooked as sin.’” The older characters often referred to younger ones as “my love” or “my duck” as terms of endearment. This Newfoundland dialogue was authentic.

The characters also had a friendly, familiar quality. Barry’s family was full of quirky people, such as his dad who was a clockmaker, yet didn’t want any clocks in the house because he had to listen to them tick all day at work. Barry would get words mixed up all the time. One day he said “‘It’s a proven fact that people who run late are optometrists – and being full of optometry is a great personality trait.’” His teacher figured out he actually meant “optimist” not “optometrist.” These quirks and funny stories made the characters so realistic.

This story took a tragic turn about three quarters of the way through that I was not expecting. I had grown to love these characters, and I felt like I knew them, so it made the tragedy much more upsetting. I don’t want to spoil it, so I won’t give away what happened to the family. However, Barry’s close knit family was able to stick together, despite their tragedy.

This is a great Newfoundland story!

Thank you Penguin Random House Canada for providing a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
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I was immediately drawn to the cover (and title) of Heather Smith's new YA novel - Barry Squires, Full Tilt. I had an inkling that dancing might be involved. I was right - but there's so much more to Barry's story....

1995 St. John's Newfoundland. Twelve year old Barry is determined to join the Full Tilt Dancers - a tap and step dancing troupe that is St. John's famous. There are a few obstacles to overcome on the way to that goal. And sometimes the biggest impediment is Barry himself. School is problematic and Barry spends more time in the principal's office than in the classroom.  

Barry's dialogue, inner thoughts and conversations are quite funny. Barry is quick witted, quick on his feet and quick with his comebacks. And that's the direction I thought the book would take. But, I was very happily proven wrong. There's so much more to Barry's story. He's bullied in and out of school. "I thought about school the next day. Soon I'd feel like a frayed puzzle piece - no matter how hard I'd try to fit in there'd always be bits sticking out."

Barry has a wonderful family - Mom, Dad, Nan, an older brother and sister and Gord - a baby brother. The love Barry feels for his little brother is so touching. The whole family is a close knit group, but there are issues as well. Mom is suffering from postpartum depression. And for Barry, difficult emotions and feelings are hard things to cope with. "The army men marched through my brain all day long. I didn't know who or what they were fighting, but they were angry. They ransacked my thoughts, tossing them aside and breaking them in two."

Okay, so that sounds pretty serious doesn't it? But there's lots of humour as well and Smith does a fantastic job of combining the two. She presents and tackles some heavy issues (I must admit, I was truly caught off guard with one big game changing plotline) with a good dose of banter.

Other supporting characters are unique and diverse and will also draw the reader to them. From homeless Uneven Steven to the residents of the One Step Closer to God Nursing Home. And Saibal - I'll let you meet this wonderful character on your own. I truly enjoyed the conversations between Saibal and Barry. (And the cameos from Alan Doyle and Rick Mercer were fun.) The setting itself is as much a character. 

I often wonder how an author comes up with their ideas for a book or if there's a bit of their own story woven through their work. You'll find a bit of Heather Smith is this novel. She's originally from Newfoundland and "Her east coast roots inspire much of her writing." And I think there's a bit of Barry there too. 

"But this isn't a memoir. Memoirs are for people who've lived long, amazing lives and have inspirations stories to tell." I don't know about that Barry, I think your story is pretty inspirational......An excellent read for all ages.
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4/5 stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐

When I read the synopsis for Barry Squires, Full Tilt, I knew that it was going to be a book that I needed to have in my life; being from Newfoundland and struggling to find books that take place in the province that I grew up in!

This was such a special book! It had me sobbing on more than one occasion, but there were a lot of laughs in between! Barry Squires is a character that I'll likely not forget anytime soon! (Bit of a hard case, but so unapologetically himself and so determined to do what he loves).
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Rating: 4.5 Stars

Relentlessly teased for his port-wine birthmark, Barry was looking for a different way to stand out. After seeing the Full Tilt dancers, he was determined to become part of their troupe. He faced many obstacles, but discovered so much about himself along the way. 

This book was so funny and touching. This irascible young man stole my heart. I must admit, I wasn't sure about him at first. Yes, his temperament was less than desirable, but as I got to know more about him, those rough edges smoothed out a bit, and all I could see was his heart of gold. I could present a list of reasons why I adored Barry so much, but some of the standout reasons revolve around the special relationships he had. 

Watching him with his baby brother, Gord, melted my heart. In Gord's presence, this tender side of Barry emerged. It was also rather beautiful watching him bond with the nursing home residents and Uneven Steven, a local homeless man. He may have been gruff and short fused, but the boy had a very compassionate heart, and there are many times his goodness shined during this story. 

Family was another important part of this book. When I first met the family, Barry and his two older siblings are were taking turns caring for the baby, because their mother was suffering from postpartum depression. This had quite an affect on the family, but they stood by each other. And when tragedy strikes, they rally once again. Though this was the most painful part of the book for me, I also found it the most beautiful. The exploration of the pain and loss was thoughtfully explored, and I couldn't even be mad, because it led to tremendous growth for Barry and his family. 

I have to warn you, the "tragedy" I mentioned is a death. It reduced me to a puddle, but I must admit, the cast of characters was so good, that losing any one of them would have hit me hard. Each and every one of the supporting characters was so well drawn and I loved how they all made this story come to life. It was such a comfort to see all the support Barry found in them, and I was grateful they were part of this tale. 

Overall: It was such a pleasure getting to meet Barry. He made me laugh, and he made me cry, but he also filled me with hope, optimism, and happiness.
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I LOVED this book. Barry made me laugh and cringe on more than one occasion with this direct attitude and quick wit. There were moments I heard hints of Joel Thomas Hynes with his snappy underground characters, and hope to see Barry hit a number of award categories for the same reasons we need to see more books of kids from supportive yet low income households. And though I laughed my way through the majority of the story, I was hit hard by the last 10% and found myself in tears. Well done Heather Smith! I can't wait for your next book.

Review will post to blog on Sep 20, 2020.
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Thanks to Penguin Random House Canada for providing an ARC of Barry Squires, Full Tilt in exchange for an honest review!

This book has so much heart. Barry Squires feel a little over the top (but what pre-teen boy doesn't honestly) and while I initially thought it'd bother me, he quickly grows on you. Its jam-packed with jokes and manages to turn the most mundane of events into something zany and fun, which made it insanely more emotionally impactful when the book delves into more serious topics in it's last act.

A fun, meaningful (canadian!!!!) read that will unlock your inner prepubsent boy even if you've never actually been one.
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5 stars 

I am a huge fan of Heather T. Smith and can never understand why she is not more widely known on the YA circuit. Smith writes innovative and deep characters who are so round and intriguing, and Barry Squires is no exception to this high standard. 

Barry is an unusual individual to say the least, and he is consistently hilarious to read regardless of whether he intends to be. While Barry's sense of humor and antics tend to drive most adults around him bananas, these same characteristics also make him riveting and entertaining to read. He is truly an individual. Barry also possesses a kind, sweet, and vulnerable side which can be seen through his relationship to Gord, his infant brother; the friends he makes (all misfits in their own ways); and the bullying he experiences as a result of a prominent birthmark on his face. He is off the wall, but he is also incredibly charming.

The novel takes a shocking turn at some stage, and I love how it is handled. Though the entire work could become devastating at this point, Smith strikes an ideal balance of emotions and keeps Barry's responses and style true to his character even under the most trying circumstances. 

As a fan of both _The Agony of Bun O'Keefe_ and _Baygirl_, I came into this with raised expectations; they were exceeded.
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