A mind-expanding read

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 11 September, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 11 September, 2005, 12:00am

Yesterday another helicopter circled over where Pete and his dad were hiding. If they had been seen, the helicopter men would have turned on the searchlight to look closer. Then the game would have been up.

When a helicopter appears in the sky, Dad puts his hands over his ears and sometimes curls into a ball, not moving. He has warned Pete many times that the helicopters are the enemy sent to seek them out. Dad has never told Pete what they have done to make the helicopters their enemy, and he doesn't ask because he knows Dad will not answer.

Pete is on the run with his dad who is being hounded by a secret organisation. Every time the helicopters hover above, the two of them must hide. The whirring in the sky means danger and then the only thing to do is to take cover, quickly.

The helicopters have already taken away Pete's mother and destroyed his family. Dad knows what's going on and what they must do to survive. All Pete can do is listen to his dad and do exactly what he says.

Sometimes there is time to squat in an abandoned hut or even spend a few days in an isolated town accepting food and shelter from some charity organisation. But this never lasts long because when people start to get interested in who they are and begin to ask questions, Dad gets suspicious and moves them on.

But now Pete is getting tired of constantly being on the move and he needs some answers to the thousands of questions brewing inside his head. He wants to settle down, have fun and make friends. He misses his mother and cries himself to sleep when Dad isn't watching. He just wants to find his mum and get his life back to what it was.

Helicopter Man is the moving story of a boy coming to terms with witnessing his father fall victim to mental illness. Pete's dad is on the run, but it is not the helicopter men who are chasing him. Pete is an intelligent, sensitive boy and when he questions his dad's bizarre behaviour he finds answers that are both terrifying and confusing.

But along the line there are understanding people who want to help sort out and explain Pete's mixed-up world. And then there is Pete himself, creative, optimistic, loving, just yearning for a normal teenage life.

Told with great humour and understanding, Elizabeth Fensham's debut novel is an involving read. We really get to know Pete as the story progresses, and he is a brave young man that anyone would warm to. Helicopter Man is one of the finest books around at the moment.

Helicopter Man

By Elizabeth Fensham

Published by Bloomsbury

ISBN 0 7475 7549 5

John Millen can be contacted on MillenBookshelf@aol.com