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Lecturer's debut YA novel published

18th April 2024 – Tags: Access to Higher Education, Staff

The latest novel from Access to HE lecturer Amanda Addison, her YA debut, Looking for Lucie, will be published this month by Neem Tree Press.

Looking for Lucie is a contemporary YA novel that explores identity, self-discovery, and newfound friendship as an 18-year-old girl sets out to uncover her ethnic heritage and family history.

Amanda teaches on our Access to Higher Education: Creative Arts course and her experience as an author gives students valuable insights into the practicalities of getting published and earning a living from their creative talents.

Looking for Lucie book launch

Review of Looking for Lucie

Avril Wilkinson, one of our Library Services Assistants, shares her thoughts on Looking for Lucie:

Amanda Addison’s latest work is an exploration of a question she is often asked: “Where are you really from?” and her response to receiving the results of her own DNA test. In “Looking for Lucie”, her new Young Adult novel she captures with great clarity a feeling of never quite fitting in; although her protagonist is a mixed-race teenager Lucie’s quest to define herself is a story that everyone can identify with.

Living with a loving family, Lucie still feels like an outsider with a hidden past; she has never known her biological father. Steve, her blonde-haired Viking-lookalike “Dad” looks nothing like her; when questioned, her mother feeds her the same old anecdotes. Fed up with strangers attempting to define her by comparing her to “that girl” in the National Geographic photo, Lucie saves her birthday money and bravely embarks on a journey to find the real people behind the stories. As the book says “What do you do when you question your entire existence? You do a DNA test.”

This “fork in the road” choice is an impulsive move which Lucie has no idea how she will deal with when the results arrive. (Did I really think this through? The result has the possibility to change my life forever”) which ultimately proves a turning point to address the questions circling in her head.

The casual racism which she endures permeates the book. (“…where are you really from? That gets me every time; makes me wonder if I really belong anywhere.”) Lucie experiences this from neighbours, friends – and, at times, even from her own family. Her reply, formulated in her head but never spoken aloud: “The real question to ask is: where are you going?

Lucie’s new friend Nav seems confident of his place in the world but suspects it is not just his excellent grades that make him sought after for a group photoshoot. (“The unspeakable truth is they only want to photograph me because I have dark hair, dark eyes, and brown skin...)

Nav, a self-confessed science geek, allows Amanda to convey quite a bit of information about genetics and the DNA testing process; she also makes clear Lucie’s fascination with her new friend and his techy obsessions “we’re like opposite sides of the same coin…”

Creativity and science form a backdrop to the novel; also striking is the way Amanda writes about food; so evocative - she made me feel hungry within the first chapter! “…delicate, subtle, sweet, tart, elusive. I could say all of this about the pakora which is nothing like the cold, mushed vegetable balls that my mother sometimes buys from the supermarket…”

The structure of “Looking for Lucie” is unusual; characters’ inner thoughts and emotions are laid bare in turn; close attention is sometimes needed, but this technique pays dividends as different “voices” enter the story, intensifying it and drawing the reader further in to the unfolding mystery.

Lucie’s inheritance finally proves to be about so much more than DNA tests, as her determined search finally draws to a bittersweet close. The Epilogue brings a feeling of calm as she completes her family tree, achieves her BA with a successful Textile Design show and focuses on a future made richer and fuller by her discoveries.

Amanda Addison. Photo: Frederic Landes

Amanda Addison. Photo: Frederic Landes

Amanda Addison is an award-winning author of books for adults and children. Her books have been shortlisted for The CILIP Carnegie and Kate Greenaway Medal and the Searchlight Writing Novel Opening Award.