Meena is a lying little trouble maker who is thrilled when older, whiter, cooler Anita allows her to tag along. Anita treats Meena as indispensable one day and worthless the next. The events unfold in a small ex-mining town near Wolverhampton, the sort of place I know well.
The usual trials of growing up form the major part of the narrative. Race is an issue as it informs Meena’s homelife and religion is important when she attempts to run roughshod over its values.
We can all empathise with Meena: she has a lovely relationship with her father, looks up to her mother, worships her grandmother, resents the interference of her ‘aunties’ and is jealous of her baby brother.
Her early crimes are laughable, such as embarrassing her mother by telling her work colleagues that she was a bridesmaid at her wedding. She progresses to stealing sweets, then money. But she ends up by lying to the police in order to achieve, finally, a moral equilibrium and a closure to the nasty, messy business of living as the acolyte of a bully.
Eventually it becomes a serious novel. But it is so much fun as it goes along.