Growing up different in the 1980s: Little Gold by Allie Rogers
Little Gold is a moving and tense novel about growing up, facing difficulties, and finding the words for problems. Set in Brighton in 1982, it shows a tough summer for Little Gold – who has cast off her too girlish name and is teased by other kids for being weird. She has left middle school, her dad is gone, and her mum will barely get out of bed. Her older brother and sister are caught in their own problems, but when she becomes friends with Peggy Baxter, the old woman from down the road, she finds a place to escape to. When things get even worse, Little Gold has to find a way to tell somebody what is going on before it is too late, but she might not have words to say it.
In Little Gold, Rogers has created a fantastic character, a girl on the brink of adolescence and trying to deal with being different. Much of the narrative is from her point of view and the style gets inside her head, leaving the reader tensely hoping that better will come for her. Peggy’s chapters are slower to get into, but as soon as her backstory starts to be revealed they become more gripping, with the visit of her former lover Vi a particularly touching part, especially when Little Gold joins them. The dark, abusive threat at the heart of the novel is carefully written, not for shock effect, but as part of a narrative showing how those in need of protection can be exploited and how problems can all become entangled.
This is a novel that touches upon a lot of issues, held together by an enchanting main character whose struggles with knowing who she is as she grows up are moving and relatable. Rogers creates an oppressive atmosphere showing the limits of being both young and old, a world where it is the middle aged adults who are the threat or let down, but also a positive novel that affirms that being different is okay and that friend and family connections can help even at the darkest times.