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The Final Year by Matthew Goodfellow – Book Review

Jan 3rd 2024

Where to start? This highly anticipated book did not disappoint. It was everything I had hoped for and more. Heartbreaking yet filled with moments of pure joy.

Matthew Goodfellow’s touching and innovative verse novel tells the raw story of 10-year-old Nate, in his own words, who is preparing to move into his final year of primary school. The book delves under the surface and explores Nate’s vulnerabilities and emotions while he attempts to navigate the challenges life throws at him. We are first introduced to his hometown, his brothers and their absent fathers and his best friend, PS.

‘This is not a place of labradors and lattes
and electric Audis
this is a place of staffies and cider,
and exhaust-pipe smoke,
a place of one foot in front of the other brother
cos what else ya gonna do?’

When Nate returns to school in September, he finds himself for the first time, in a different class to PS. Unfortunately, things go from bad-to-worse after PS becomes increasingly inseparable from Turner: the school bully. Nate’s ability to keep ‘The Beast’ at bay becomes ever-more challenging as he battles with his emotions. Things start to turn a corner when his new teacher, Mr Joshua, introduces the class to Skellig and encourages Nate to express himself through his writing.

‘It helps you process the world, you know?
All that heavy stuff we have to carry.’

Nate’s world is yet again rocked when his youngest brother is rushed into hospital with a rare congenital heart defect. Through this traumatic event we witness the beauty in people pulling together in the darkest of times.

 

‘In the darkness you will find yourself
and your people
those who have seen it too
those who navigate and find a way.
 
Stick with those people, Nate.
Stick with yourself
your pen
your dreams.
Ideas will guide you.’

 

‘The Final Year’ would make a fantastic class or focused read for UKS2. Being written in verse really helps to make this book such an accessible read and the superb but simplistic illustrations beautifully reinforce the characters and setting. Themes of family, friendship, emotions, grief and hope (…to name a few) make the perfect catalyst for important discussion. It is the hope that in sharing this text, pupils will also be inspired to find a way to express themselves and process their emotions. It really is a must-read for pupils but also for adults. I found it a valuable reminder of the complexity of growing-up and the often-complicated lives of many families.

Purchase your copy of The Final Year from our partners at Peters.

Keep up to date with the author, Matt Goodfellow on Twitter, and see more of the Joe Todd-Stanton’s illustration work on his Instagram.