Dublin, O'Brien, 2013, 218p
I don't know a lot about the conflict in Ireland over the last fifty years, and am always surprised at the lack of teaching of this subject. Fortunately, we librarians can always count on engaging and fact-based fiction to teach teenagers a little about the things they don't learn in the classroom.
In the 1960's, conflict between the loyalists and nationalists is rife. Emma and Dylan move to Belfast because their father, a journalist, has been sent there to report on current events. They are sociable and outgoing kids, so unsurprisingly make friends quickly. Emma meets Maeve at her running club, while Dylan meets Sammy at football. When the siblings bring their new friends together, they find that both have deep-seated suspicions about each other: Maeve is from a Catholic nationalist background, whereas Sammy is a Protestant unionist. With time, they begin to realise that they aren't that different after all; but the rest of Belfast are not so quick to change their views, and conflict breaks out across the city.
Stormclouds has a clever moral message about prejudice and difference: the children put the adults to shame with their ability to see past religion and politics. The brash aggressiveness that leads to street warfare is distressing, especially when contrasted to the friends' open mindedness and love for one another. This is a brilliant, gripping book, teaching it's young audience about an important and ongoing political conflict.