(London - Hodder, Aug. 16, 2005)
From The Guardian: There's a reassuringly old-fashioned feel to David Almond's latest book, Clay, that gently lulls the reader into a false sense of security. The fact that the child narrator is named Davie gives one a sense of Almond tapping into his own childhood. This story is timeless. Or even out of time. Davie is an altar boy and, until now, his best mate has been more important than a girlfriend, and a feeling of innocence hangs in the air. Despite the bully - and he is terrible - there is a feeling of a cocooned community. But this is David Almond we're talking about. The sinister is never far away. Enter Stephen Rose; his father has died, his mother gone mad. Rumours abound that he was responsible for both occurrences. Sometimes Stephen denies this. That this newcomer isn't the slightest bit worried by the bully should endear us to him. But, in Almond's skilful hands, it also makes us wary. Why is he so unconcerned? And Stephen has a God-given talent for modelling out of clay. Then again, it may not be God-given at all. Stephen starts with miniature models and tries to convince Davie that he can give his creations life. He certainly seems to make a clay baby move. Davie has seen it with his own eyes. Or he thinks he has, but he's not altogether sure so, therefore, neither are we. The thing is, Stephen also appears to be able to hypnotise his "distant aunt" Crazy Mary. Davie is unhappy with the way that Stephen belittles her when she's under his influence. Davie's relationship with Stephen is one of discomfort and fascination. He is drawn to him but, at the same time, repulsed. Now Stephen wants to create something big from clay which he calls the beast. But he needs Davie's help. And then something happens to the bully and there's no turning back. As you'd expect from Almond's previous novels, Clay is dark and thought-provoking. There's no neatly tied-up ending and no redemption. The evil is still out there.