Away with Words is set in a world where words appear physically as they are spoken – scattering along the floor only to be swept up at the end of the day and discarded. This element of magical realism portrayed in the novel, turning the physical invisibility of spoken words into something visible, makes the story feel unique – a different take on the power of communication.
The story centres around Gala and her father Jordi who have just moved from Catalonia to Scotland to live with Jordi’s boyfriend, Ryan, who is a teacher at Gala’s secondary school. Gala struggles to settle into her new school as she learns English as an additional language, often picking up only broken pieces of sentences (which is reflected expertly in how dialogue is expressed visually in the book). One day, Gala meets quiet, reserved Natalie (who we soon find out is experiencing selective mutism). The two form a friendship that extends beyond spoken communication.
One of the most interesting aspects of this novel was that language, itself, appeared to serve as another character. The physicality of words, including the appearance of words in different fonts and colours, depending on where they originated (and the emotion attached) offers an interesting place for discussion. The plight of Gala and Natalie as they find their own voices by collecting the words of others is also an interesting thought to ponder. Making connections with our own reality, once words are spoken, can they just be discarded? I enjoyed the idea of the characters in this world being able to preserve spoken words for some time, valuing the lasting power and influence of the words we choose.
This creative work by Sophie Cameron offers the reader of 9 years upwards an insight into what it’s like to navigate new places and friendships. Cultural displacement is a key theme in the novel as Gala navigates not only a new language, but also, a new culture. I am looking forward to exploring more of Sophie Cameron’s works as she writes with a unique sensitivity that has drawn me in as a reader.
Nominated for the Yoto Carnegie Medal for writing in 2024
Longlisted for the 2024 UKLA Book Awards
Longlisted for the 2024 Juniper Book Awards
Longlisted for the 2024 Red Book Award
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