Kevin Brooks' compelling novel ‘Candy' delivers us with a fast-moving, coming-of-age romance. Brooks has developed an irresistible novel to cater to all ages.

Joe Beck is obsessed with Candy. But Joe's Candy is not a confection. Candy is a girl. And she is not your average teen. Candy holds secrets and lives a dark world. Little does Joe know, but once he becomes entrapped in Candy's world, his life will never be the same.

The story is centred around the lust of two teenagers, Joe Beck and Candy. Joe is a fifteen-year-old suburban schoolboy, who finds himself lost on the way to a doctor's appointment in London. He crosses eyes with a beautiful and seemingly innocent girl leaning in a doorway of a building. At first it appears to be your regular boy-meets-girl scenario. They sit down for lunch together and she reveals nothing about herself except a phone number. Joe and Candy's momentary flirtation develops into a perfect day at the London Zoo a week later. As the bitter truth about Candy's dangerous world of drugs, violence and desperation emerges, Joe finds himself addicted to Candy, as she is to heroin.

Candy lives a gritty underclass life of prostitution and is controlled by a pimp, an enormous black man named Iggy who provides her with heroin from the money she makes. Nothing stands in the way of Joe and his desire to help Candy escape from her terrifying life. Joe drops everything for take Candy into hiding while she withdraws from heroin. However, Iggy tracks them down and finds and uses one thing that is equally close to Joe's heart as Candy is, in a heart-wrenching, breathless conclusion.

Candy is a bold and intoxicatingly attractive young woman. She is a character filled with promise, however she lives on the streets of London and is a heroin –addicted prostitute, utterly dependent
on a violent pimp who supplies her with the drug. Her English underclass life is the result of jealousy, lack of affection and diminished self-respect as a younger child. Her world is invaded by Joe, the first boy in her life who actually respects and values her for her true qualities. Joe helps Candy escape from her horrific world. Her awareness of the state she is in, is terrible to read about, but her strong character brings hope to the story.

Joe begins the novel as a fifteen-year-old schoolboy living in the suburbs of London. He is an average teenage boy, with a strong passion for music and his band, The Katie's. When Joe meets Candy, he falls instantly in love. Candy is more complicated than Joe first expected, but he sacrifices everything in his life to be with her and help create a better life for her. He learns the consequences of his complex relationship with her and has several near death experiences. Joe is propelled by circumstances within the novel and lacks control over situations. Even though Joe's whole life is turned upside down, he manages to stay true to himself throughout the course of the novel.

Candy is written as a first-person narrative, which means Joe is the only character we truly come to know. All events, descriptions and perspectives are seen through his eyes. Most of the reader's opinions on characters and events are therefore developed on how Joe delivers them through his thoughts. We never actually know how Candy feels about the situation she is in or if it is true love she feels for Joe. We end up hanging onto every word that Joe speaks, and we can feel every passion he expresses. The reader is certain to take a genuine liking to Candy, because Joe talks so highly of her.

The use of language in Candy is highly descriptive and graphic, yet this allows for a more vivid, sensitive and powerful plot. Particular drug scenes and glimpses of Candy's life and state during her withdrawal from heroin are shockingly confronting. Joe uses detailed descriptions of events and characters. He tends to express worries on the micro-level, "should I stick my elbow out? Should I hold her hand?" Sometimes it feels as though details are wasted in the wrong places, but in the end it paints perfect visions for the reader.

The novel, Candy uses realistic characters with believable backgrounds and lives. However there is one stage in the novel, that is quite clichéd to thriller storylines. Joe loses contact with Candy for several days, and he fears the worst. He instantly heads off to London and quite surprisingly spots Iggy, who happens to be going to Candy's rundown apartment. He follows Iggy down the empty laneways and back streets until they reach Candy's location. The ending of the novel is also not one hundred per cent clear. You will find you may have to draw your own conclusions for the future of the characters.

Candy is an intoxicating tale of heartache, danger and hope, which will enthral any reader. It uses simple language, yet has a complicated plot. The book receives four and a half stars and is highly recommended as one of this years must-reads.

Candy 9.4 of 10 on the basis of 1529 Review.