Fifteen-year-old Penny longs for something better. Better than a small, damp flat. Better than her bullying classmates and uninterested teachers. Better than misery and poverty day in day out.
An unlikely friendship and a huge sum of money promise a whole lot of new chances for Penny, and she realises that not only can she change her life, she can change herself.
But at what cost?
All The Money in the World is a really enjoyable read. I can imagine a lot of young people resonating with Penny’s hopes and dreams.
Starting from a poor, underprivileged background, Penny wishes for a better life. She and her group of friends are bullied at school because their clothes smell musty from the mould in the flats they live in. When Penny befriends a ‘scary’ old lady that lives in the big, posh house next door, her luck changes. She comes into a lot of money and the opportunity to go to an exclusive boarding school.
The story looks at wealth and status in relation to happiness, alongside bullying, lies/deceit, mental health, friendship, and kindness.
Penny is a likeable, and clearly a kind and generous main character. However, my favourite characters have to be Violet, Kitty, and Jane. No matter where Penny is, her status, or wealth, they love her. She can rely on them no matter what. Penny’s interactions with her mum, teachers, and other adults in the flats felt very genuine. Sometimes having to take the lead or the ‘adult role’ in order to get things done, and going against her teachers who had little faith in her.
The plot has you rooting for Penny, feeling her pain at the start, then moving through the emotions of hope, failure, and anguish but ultimately love and acceptance towards the end. It makes you think about what you would choose to do in her shoes. Some of the choices she makes and lies she tells to fit in aren’t good but she is always trying to help others, works hard, and has a kind heart.
This is an enjoyable, thoughtful book, beautifully written.
Thank you so much to Netgalley and Orion Children’s Books for the e-arc.
Sarah Moore Fitzgerald is a novelist, teacher and researcher at the University of Limerick where she’s part of the creative writing team that delivers UL’s MA in Creative Writing and UL’s New York Creative Writing Summer School. She is founder of UL’s Creative Writing Winter School for mid-career writers and the author of six novels including The Apple Tart of Hope and A Strange Kind of Brave.
Her next novel for children, All The Money In The World, is a rags to riches story exploring privilege, class and identity (out in July 2021). Her work has been adapted for the stage, translated into over 18 different languages and shortlisted for several awards (including the Waterstones children’s book Prize, Children’s Books Ireland book of the year and the Irish Book Awards).