Reviews /

Last Girl In

Authored by Cheryl Diane Parkinson
Published by Dinosaur Books Ltd

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Last Girl In is a time-travelling story with a young, cricket-playing hero at its heart. Kerry-Anne fights the unfair rules which apply to girls at her local cricket club. In the process, she discovers the horrific racism once faced by her grandparents. She is transported back to the Notting Hill Carnival and ‘Teddy-Boy’ racially motivated riots of 1958, a decade after HMT Empire Windrush arrived in Tilbury Docks.

Caribbean cultural references and linguistic richness abound and Kerry-Anne’s Jamaican heritage are celebrated throughout. She drinks sorrel in her grandmother’s kitchen, enjoys plantain, and listens to Lord Kitchener with her grandfather.

But sport is the arena through which much of the narrative plays out. Parallels between racism and sexism are foregrounded through the time-slip structure of the story. And time is of the essence because it is running out for the protagonist. Kerry-Anne only has one more year of cricket-playing in a mixed side before the tired arguments against girls in sport apply. There is the triple threat of no female changing facilities, bullying, dismissive older boys and the archaic club rules. Combined, this means that next season she will no longer be able to compete in the sport that she loves. She resolves to challenge Moose, one of the bullies, to a match in order to secure her right to train.

Kerry-Anne is feisty but also flawed, harbouring an uncomfortable secret of her own that is at the root of some of the bullying she receives. As well as the power of the past to impact on the present, she discovers the importance of her team, and the unifying power of cricket.

The writer, Cheryl Diane Parkinson, is a secondary teacher, and it shows. This novel manages to deal with an ugly period of British history in a simple and heart-warming way.  The straightforward style makes it accessible for younger readers. And it will appeal particularly to any girl who has ever experienced the marginalisation often associated with playing an historically male-dominated sport.

Nominated for the Branford Boase Award 2024