Not since A Monster Calls, the novel Patrick Ness wrote based on a story idea from the late Siobhan Dowd, has a collaboration from two of my favorite authors felt so bittersweet. But Beck, Mal Peet’s posthumously published novel finished by his friend Meg Rosoff, comes close.
Rosoff is perhaps the perfect writer for the job; her sensitivity to language allows her to meld her narrative voice with Peet’s, and her prior work has shown her ease in writing introspective characters like the title character in Beck.
Born in 1908 in Liverpool to a prostitute mother and an unknown Ghanaian father, Beck becomes an orphan at a young age. What follows over his next two decades is violence, abuse, rejection and outright hatred—due in no small part to the color of his skin—interspersed with brief moments of acceptance and joy. Only when he meets an older woman—auspiciously named Grace—during a journey across Canada does Beck dare to hope for something resembling a future infused with love.
“Go on the way you’re facing until you can’t go no further” is the motto that keeps Beck walking in the face of adversity. Luckily for readers, Peet also kept writing in the face of illness and impending death, and his friend Rosoff carries on his legacy.