In a note ‘About the Author’ in his novel Secret Heart, David Almond tells readers that he and his family live ‘just beyond the ancient Roman Wall, which once marked the place where civilisation ended and the wastelands begin’. As Almond suggests himself in an online interview, that geographical location can stand as a metaphor for the fictional space created by his novels: saying that ‘beyond the wall was where the kind of wild things happened’. He adds, ‘Good books have kind of been into the wilderness and have come back again and they’re kind of controlled, they’re kind of civilised, but if they’re any good they’ve still got that kind of hint of wildness about them.’1 As a result of their shared (and sizeable) ‘hint of wildness’, Almond’s novels tend to read as versions or variations of the same story, a story intriguingly and obsessively engaged with the border between civilisation and savagery in the lives of young people - especially boys. The commonalties in Almond’s descriptions of life on both sides of the wall where civilisation ends not only mark his work as distinctively his but also, at the same time, reveal its allegiance to some key characteristics typical of writing for young people, itself a literature about life on both sides of the wall where adulthood begins.
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