Overall Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐
“Fiona couldn’t put her finger on it, but she could swear while he was catching his breath William was talking to someone and cheering people on. But there was no-one else there…was there?”
I was very pleasantly surprised with this book! Patrick Smith’s The Dummy Pass is not just a fun children’s story about a young boy with big dreams, but it’s also a very real book about how parental separation can impact a child at such a young and vulnerable age. It’s brilliantly written and is an absolute must for your child’s bookshelf. I’m very happy to be opening the blog tour for this book today – if you like the sound of it, please support the author by buying a copy for yourself or by sharing this review!
About the book
William loves to play rugby in the back garden with his dad and wants to try out for the school rugby team. His friends, Tom and Finlay, think that it’s a great idea, but the school bullies, Stephen and Harry, think he’ll never make it.
But while William is excited about the rugby, his parents are having more rows and the tension at home is getting worse.
Can William make the school team? Will he play well? Will his parents’ relationship survive?
And who is the mysterious Billy?
A book for any child or parent that is going through, or has gone through, a divorce or separation. The Dummy Pass offers one example, one route, of how this trauma can be overcome and a path can be plotted through to a happy conclusion for all.
The story starts with such a heartwarming feel as we meet two of the main characters, William and his father. It’s clear William has such a wonderful bond with his dad as they spend time together, and I instantly had a smile on my face as I read through that first chapter! The author gently eases us into William’s life, introduces us to his friends and the things he likes to do (especially rugby) but we quickly begin to experience a little of life behind closed doors – something which changed the tone of the book considerably, something I’d never seen before in a children’s book! The theme of the book is so clear as William’s mum and dad begin to make comments towards each other, and those little disagreements don’t go unnoticed by William. It was happening more and more often in William’s eyes. I thought this was written brilliantly, and it’s clear the author knows how to tackle this subject area for the target audience of the book. I thought this made a very impressive opening to the story, and I was intrigued to see where things would go from here!
“They never shouted and always smiled when he came into the room, or at least pretended to smile. But they were having more of these serious conversations about ‘responsibility’ or ‘this relationship’ and William hated it.”
Even though it was clear his parents loved him, the way they were acting certainly affected William in some way and it broke my heart the more I thought about it. As a child, how can you understand the reason behind why your parents disagree or argue regularly? Did William think that any of this was his fault? Meanwhile, aside from his parents’ issues, William experiences bullying from his peers and fears he’ll never be good enough to make it onto the rugby team. I really enjoyed how much variety there was in the book, how the author covers so many topics in such detail, but in a gentle way that is easy for children to digest and to understand. I really liked how William has his own good friends, Tom and Finlay, and they stand up for him like good pals should do when bullies make themselves known! The humour between these characters was written flawlessly, and you can easily get a great idea of what their friendship is like. Every scene was easy to visualise and the pacing was good for the type of book this was. A good start to the story which sets us up well for what’s to come!
The more I read, the more it became clear that any sporty kids would probably love this book. The detail that went into William’s rugby trials and following his practice sessions were really well written. Finding out he’d been picked for the team, despite his doubts, gave me a smile, especially with how well William’s reaction had been described. It was pure joy! However, this feeling was cut short as the arguing begins once more between his parents, and this was so engaging and really held my attention for all the right reasons. The change in emotions so quickly brings you back to earth and makes you realise that there could be so much going on than what shows on the surface with a child. It was clear just how much William hated his parents’ arguments, and over time, we see just how serious their arguments can be at times. There was also a big part of the book that had me intrigued; a transformed garden, a voice calling William ‘Billy’, a mysterious rugby pitch appearing out of thin air… what was going on?! Something else to deepen this plot and keep readers on their toes!
“William knew the try was his fault. He knew he was playing badly, but he just couldn’t seem to concentrate on the game.”
William’s mum and dad agree that they need to spend some time apart. They have the difficult conversation with William and explain that his mum will move out of their house in an attempt to fix things. Again, the author has approached these topics with such care and the delivery of it all was perfect in my eyes. His words were powerful and emotional, and it struck a chord! Meanwhile, William experiences more and more rugby match ‘hallucinations’, in his garden which seemed to help him improve his rugby skills. Seeing how these strange, unexplainable events help him get better and better at a sport he loves was really fun to read and brought something really refreshing to the book (even though I was just as baffled as his parents by William’s actions in their back garden!) It didn’t take me long at all to really grow attached to all the characters in this story. The way William’s family changes is full of emotion, but I had a good feeling about the outcome for them in the end. And I was desperate to know if William could score that winning try for his team!
There are a fantastic few pages close to the end of the book detailing a killer rugby match – we still don’t know what these ‘hallucinations’ are and why William has them when he goes into his garden, but they were so interesting to read about! I know absolutely nothing about rugby and I still thoroughly enjoyed the intense game play and the way the author describes every move. But aside from all the fun, we see William’s dad spiral into a kind of depression, something which was very upsetting. The author has made such a difficult and complex scenario a little more understandable for someone so young, and I’m sure it would help so many going through similar periods in their lives. William not only has to cope with the split of his parents, but also his mother finding a new boyfriend and playing in the rugby final. It was easy to imagine his thoughts and feelings about all this and the author has covered this so well. I was looking forward to seeing how things would end!
“He couldn’t stop thinking about his dad sitting down next to Dominic and his mum. Maybe he was going to have a fight with Dominic, but why would he shake his hand?”
William not only impressed his parents, his mum’s new boyfriend, his best friends, his team and his coach – he also impressed me too in that crucial final match. It was such an intense and satisfying game with really great description. However, for me, the ending of the book seemed a little abrupt and I really wanted to see how William coped with a new parent figure in his life, but a lot of this was left to the imagination. Even though I felt there could have been a little more to this story, I did thoroughly enjoy the ride and thought this was such an engaging and compelling book for the target age range. I’d be very curious to read more books about William and his love of rugby, or even a new book from this author covering more of those all important topics in a child friendly way. A really great little book to get on your shelf! I also really appreciate the extra parts of the book, the viewpoints on separation from real people in William, his mother and his father’s shoes. It really provided food for thought and certainly rounded off the book well.
I’d say this book is an invaluable tool for any child who is struggling to process parents going through a divorce, or for a parent who is struggling to see their child’s point of view in a similar scenario. Even for a children’s book, it’s been an eye-opening read for me, and has really made me think of things from a child’s perspective. The book also balances this serious tone with a fun one, and the author’s description of William’s favourite sport was magical. It’s a real gem that will stick with you for a lifetime. More please, Patrick!
A huge thanks to the author, Patrick Smith, and Heather at Overview Media for my copy and place on the blog tour! You can pick up a copy of The Dummy Pass for yourself over on Amazon, available on Kindle and in paperback. Make sure you’re following the author over on Twitter and Instagram for more updates!
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