Book #29

Duck Feet by Ely Percy

'Duck Feet' is a coming-of-age novel, set in the mid-noughties in Renfrew and Paisley, Scotland. Dive in and follow the lives of 12-year-old Kirsty Campbell and her friends as they navigate life from first to sixth year at Renfrew Grammar school.

This book is a celebration of working-class life and youth in an ever-changing world. It uses humour to tackle hard-hitting subjects such as drugs, bullying, sexuality, and teenage pregnancy. But moreover, it is a relatable and accessible portrait of figuring out who you are, plunging into the currents of life, and most of all, finding hope.

Duck Feet made me feel as though I were reading about my own young life in the early 2000s. Never before have I read anything so close to the mark, so utterly and perfectly nostalgic in its descriptions of growing up as a girl in a Central belt Scottish high school.

Percy takes all of the small things and rolls them up with the big things, to depict a flawless tale of Kirsty’s coming of age, her triumphs and defeats, her small realisations, her relationships and communications. All of this is done in my dialect, in the way we all spoke when I was in Kirsty’s place at school, the way we still all speak now. This style, and the way Kirsty experiences life, felt both wonderfully and horribly personal, creating an irrevocable connection between me and Kirsty, bringing me from laughter to tears, and back again.

Kirsty is such a sincere and genuine character. She’s flawed, she can be irritating and headstrong, and yet you will continue to support her. Her voice is raw and endearing, hilarious and open, and she is someone you’ll feel lucky to have known.

It was impossible for me not to relate to all the characters, and to align them with people I know, or knew, in life. These are characters everyone in and around my area will recognise, and either love or loathe.

The structure Percy has chosen here is also a wonderful thing. The chapters are set out almost as vignettes, each of them focussing on a recent situation, problem, obsession, or event happening in Kirsty’s life. They ebb as flow as my memories of back then do. Some of these are things which feel so important or huge as a teenager, but don’t seem as huge to the adults in our lives. Percy takes care to reinforce their importance to Kirsty, and makes them important to us - after all, your favourite boy band splitting up is no small thing. I felt that pain again, I saw my pals getting pregnant again, I listened to shitey remarks from smart-arse wee boys again, and the whole time, I was back there in that hole of a high school which shaped me into who I am now.

This is a brilliant, funny, and hard-hitting picture of the type of life literature has left behind until now.