In Bloom
Matthew Crow

Francis Wootton's first memory is of Kurt Cobain's death, and there have since been other hardships much closer to home. At fifteen years old he already knows all about loss and rejection - and to top it all off he has a permanently broke big brother, a grandma with selective memory (and very selective social graces) and a mum who's at best an acquired taste. Francis has grown used to figuring life out on his own. But when he is diagnosed with leukaemia that wide-open future suddenly narrows, and a whole new world of worry presents itself. There's the horror of being held back a year at school... the threat of imminent baldness. But he hadn't reckoned on meeting Amber - fierce, tough, one-of-a-kind - and finding a reason to tackle it all - the good, the bad, and everything in between - head on.

"This is an honest, sometimes very painful, often extremely funny and always uplifting novel that really touched my heart . . . I was completely under Matthew Crow's spell. This short novel is just perfectly brilliant and I will recommend 'In Bloom' to all readers, young and old." Anne Cater, 'Random Things Through My Letterbox' blog

"A moving and wonderfully witty tale... There are certain possible joys in reading and one of them is finding a book that is genuinely - without labouring to be so - funny... This excellent book is worth anyone's time." Daily Telegraph

"In Bloom is a compelling story with three-dimensional characters, a powerful dramatic momentum and a convincingly sad denouement. I hope that some imaginative cinema producer is already taking out his cheque book." Books for Keeps
Aidan, from Wren Academy Barnet

In my opinion In Bloom was a very good book, even more so because normally I wouldn't read that specific kind of genre, but as an exception it was a particularly mind-blowing book. My favourite character was Francis as the main story revolved around him and his life. However at sometimes I think Matthew Crow needed to be more specific. 

In total I would rate this book  8/10.

Andrew, from University College School London

In Bloom is a book that deals with such a serious topic, yet in some ironic ways it is ‘funny’.

In Matthew Crow's In Bloom, lead character Francis Wootton doesn’t have the easiest life. Francis is a sensitive person and is trapped in Tyne and Wear with a stubborn mother, a selectively forgetful Grandmother, a father gone AWOL and an  elder brother who is seemingly always drinking, ‘hanging out’ with friends, and who regularly clears out the fridge; so when he’s diagnosed with cancer it seems like life is just going to keep getting worse.

Vomiting, hair loss, awkward emotional encounters with family members and missing school time is all part and parcel of Frankie’s grim new life, but moving to the hospital ward for treatment brings its own surprises. There he meets Amber, who is feisty, fearless, and a little frightening – but she’s everything that Francis needs to realise that life is worth fighting for.

At the beginning of the book you get a very good picture of the area Francis lives in as he makes the observation ‘they seemed to film quite a lot of Crimespotters’ in his area. He narrates his story starting from his first memory of Kurt Cobain’s death to the present where he is diagnosed with leukaemia. Francis has to tackle the fact he has cancer head on and is forced to grow up very quickly.

Although the book is only slightly over 200 pages, it feels as if it’s the perfect length and is set at a good pace. This book brought me both laughter and sadness, and gives a great insight into a melodramatic teenage boy’s mind. Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this and I highly recommend it for anyone seeking a book which is quick to read but enjoyable as well. Having said this, I’m not sure I would read it over The Fault in Our Stars by John Green, which is a book which deals with a very similar topic.

Annabel, from Wren Academy Barnet

If you pick this book up you will not be able to put it down. It is an emotional rollercoaster that pulls on the heart strings. It is an expressive and heart-felt story that shows the true love between Francis and Amber, two teenagers, fighting for their lives. In this story it covers nearly all the genres: it’s funny and sad, normal and terrifying and shows all emotions it is possible to feel.

In Bloom centres around a 15 year-old boy called Francis. An intelligent, kind, geeky kid, who suddenly finds himself suffering from a potentially deathly illness - cancer. He spends a lot of time in hospital and meets a girl, Amber, on the hospital ward. They become more than friends and battle their problems together. Without giving the story away the ending is a tearjerker and tissues will be needed.

In Bloom deals with a difficult subject that is rarely touched on in books for teenagers. It does well and I would definitely recommend reading it. From the start to finish you want to laugh, although what you really need to do is cry.

Avani, from Wren Academy Barnet

Matthew Crow has written this book in very deep thought. He has really dug deep into the plot and explored all the alternative ideas and events that could take place in the book. The book is full of twists and turns which is always a new turning point of thought towards the reader’s interest.

The book is about the tragic love relationship between the two characters, ‘Francis’ and ‘Amber’.  The plot thickens as the reader goes further into the book. Matthew Crow’s style of writing has helped the reader empathise with the characters and fit themselves in the story line. 

The blurb straightaway hooks the reader and engages him/her to be included in the same world as all the characters in the book. At the start of the blurb basic but important information is shown. However, when ‘Francis’s cancer is introduced the reader starts to stream through all the immense emotion that will take place. Then the reader will start to add in all the family members - who have been introduced in the beginning of the blurb - and understand the sly twist in the plot. The reader will also think about how the author (in this case Matthew Crow) is playing with the reader’s interpretation of the current situation and his/her understanding of the different emotions of the different characters. As the reader reads more of the blurb a new character is introduced – ‘Amber’. Her identity is a mystery that is waiting to be solved which grabs the reader to read the book.

The reader will then read the book in order to find out more about the double twist in the plot. The mixed genres that Matthew Crow wrote in were Tragedy and Romance. Tragic Romance is one very emotional and popular topic being written about in the modern day. However Mathew Crow adds more to it and really inspires you to change your life while you have it. This is important to understand as sometimes it depends on the genre or the writer itself but this isn’t the case as he really thinks about the characters and the reader. This is shown in his writing as the reader can feel the book speaking to him/her.

The phrase ‘books are your best friends’ comes to life after reading this amazing, life-changing and inspiring book. This is because the book really gives the reader a good insight on the surprises that life brings along and how you must go on, never giving up and fighting for what is rightly yours. The phrase becomes more important as Matthew Crow’s book has shown what books can do to you. How books can change your life and other people around you too!!

On an overall scale the book is aimed at teenagers or young adults.

I would give the book a recommendation of 5/5 complete stars.

Beatrice, from Wren Academy Barnet

In Bloom is a beautiful story covering the touchy topic of cancer. This is a topic that can be very difficult for an author to cover, because of its sensitive nature. In Bloom, however, covers it perfectly.

Some people have likened this to John Green’s The Fault In Our Stars due to it being about a teenager with cancer, but I have to disagree. John Green is my favourite writer ever and, no matter how typical it is, The Fault In Our Stars is my favourite book. However this book is little like TFiOS, it just covers the same subject matter. 

It is the story of a teenage leukemia patient called Francis, who is dealing with his illness as well as being a teenager. It tells not just of Francis’s cancer, but of the love story between him and Amber, a fellow leukemia patient. This is a love story that keeps them finding reason in their cancer-stricken lives and helps them cope with not only the cancer, but with their families and lack of hair. I really admire the character of Frances. He makes the best of his tricky situation, and handles cancer with a maturity I wouldn’t expect from any other teenager, especially not myself. Crow’s writing style also makes the serious issues seem less serious, and handles them lightheartedly.

This book will make you laugh and cry, and fall in love with it.

Behdad, from East Barnet School

Francis Wootton is a normal fifteen year old: doing his GCSEs, hanging out with his friends, until he gets diagnosed with leukaemia when all this changes. The wannabe poet spends days of boredom in his ward but when Amber comes in everything changes... He’s in love... I thoroughly enjoyed this bittersweet romance however unfortunately I was not able to finish it but from what I have read (three quarters) I have been entertained by the brilliance this masterpiece is. First off I will point out I have never been into Romance books with the exception of the one-in-the-million; nevertheless this has completely changed my views. The witty insights of everyday happenings are engaging and agreeable; also the style [in which] In Bloom has been composed I will never forget. Hands down to Mr. Crow for the best book of We Read 2014. I give you my applause and from my heart and soul thank you for making this book. I am giving this book 10 for 'Unputdownability'. 

Cassius, from Wren Academy Barnet

In Bloom is a book about 15 year-old Francis Wotton who is diagnosed with leukaemia, a potentially fatal blood cancer.

Matthew Crow is a perfect author for this book by creating realistic situations so you can empathise with all the characters.

For Francis family life has been a tough roller-coaster.  His twin sister died in a road traffic accident when they were very young; his parents are no longer together (this gives room for some dark humour), meanwhile his brother is your classic lazy teenager. Let's not forget Francis' rather strange grandma who does not get along well with her daughter (Francis' mother). His family is what you would call 'higgledy piggledy'

Things do change though as romance is soon in the air for protagonist Francis as he meets another leukaemia patient, Amber.  Amber is a feisty person who will never say the truth. She is very sarcastic but bold and strong willed. But sooner or later Amber's rebellious nature takes things too far. Could this ruin their finely balanced relationship? Read the book to find out!

Overall Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Cody, from Wren Academy Barnet

This book, In Bloom, is nicely written with a terrific and sad ending. It leaves the reader thinking about what will happen to Francis and Kelly. The book was funny and sad at the same time, which is difficult to show as a writer and it takes skill to be able to do this.

Although it was really good it was also very complicated and had some unusual words which I didn’t know, but overall it was an excellent book which is worth reading.

Debbie, from Wren Academy Barnet

There are lots of talented authors out there! Especially Matthew Crow! If I felt ill, or weak, I picked up the book and started to read it. My surroundings disappeared, nothing else mattered, only to concentrate on reading this amazing book. I have to admit, I didn’t understand some parts but I guess it is like a jigsaw puzzle. You don’t understand what is happening during the process, but then the outcome gives you a big shock, showing you how amazing the finished piece of puzzle is. Then, you star to understand what the whole puzzle was meant to be. Just like this book. You might not have understood much at the beginning at first (like me) but you gradually start to, and page after page you get lured in, and in the end, you reached the end and… you take a sigh of relief! 

The book was really deep and even though the tears did not run down, they still welled up in my eyes. I don’t usually cry for books but this already shows just how deep and touching this book is. Cancer, in love, teenage times… A lot of us, I believe, can really relate to the wonderful and humorous characters, Francis Wotton and Amber Spratt. It helps us to understand them more. Lately, books like Fault in our Stars have become a huge hit. Yes, they are AMAZING but I think In Bloom should be known better, too. Fault in our Stars and In Bloom are so similar yet so different so make sure to check both of them out if you haven’t already! 

Lastly, you have got to give a round of applause to Matthew Crow!

Elisheva, from Jewish Community Secondary School

In Bloom is a touching story that will have you both laughing and crying at the same time. It is one of those rare books that you can read over and over again without getting bored. Many have compared it to The Fault In Our Stars by John Green as it has a similar plot, yet it is written with a unique style.

It follows a teenager's journey through leukaemia and shows how even the worst situations have a bright side to them, in this case, young love. It is well written and gives the reader the sense of being in the story and part of the book, as if you were standing alongside the characters, experiencing it for yourself.  Overall, In Bloom is an amazing story that will change your view on life. It includes topics that are relevant to any teenager's life and unintentionally contains advice that some may find very useful. I highly recommend it to anyone looking for a good book to become absorbed into but prepare to go on a roller coaster of emotions.

Hannah, from Jewish Community Secondary School
In Bloom is about a fifteen-year-old boy called Francis who is diagnosed with leukaemia (a type of cancer). He is taken to a special cancer unit where he receives further treatment. There are two other teenagers his age in the unit who he doesn’t like, but when the new girl Amber comes, everything changes. He soon falls in love with her and they share many great memories together. I absolutely loved In Bloom. It is such an amazing book with such an amazing storyline. I really felt like I was actually inside the book and I felt different emotions according to the situation. I felt like I could relate with all the characters. It was very moving and was written so well. I would give this book 10/10 and would definitely recommend In Bloom to anyone over the age of 11.
Imogen, from Jewish Community Secondary School

The book In Bloom is touching and well written, and you will feel a mix of emotions throughout the book. However, as much as I enjoyed the contents of this book I felt a bit of irrelevancy in parts and some of the book did not make sense. I would recommend this book to people who haven't read a book about cancer yet. It's quite similar to books in the same genre so if you have read lots of this type, don’t bother.

James, from Jewish Community Secondary School

Unlike many other authors, Matthew Crow has the incredible ability to not only create in-depth, three-dimensional characters but also to explore their personalities over time and to add something new to every chapter. Featuring a fifteen-year-old boy with leukaemia (named Francis Wootton) this book is both moving and hilarious: exciting enough to want to reach the end and see what will happen, but still wholesome enough for a reader to wish that there isn’t one. One of few modern books which could compare to this paperback is Wonder by R.J. Palacio. However, riding on a rollercoaster of raw emotion, in some ways, Crow's writing is even better given the challenges that he has had to face in order to write this narrative. For example, Francis’s condition is so dangerous that the author almost has to ‘cling on’ to it and only write about occurrences directly linked to his cancer. Nevertheless, being such a remarkable writer has let this door of events become a whole corridor of incidents. By inserting a range of references from the main character’s past (as well as other small details), Crow has managed, seemingly without even trying, to use his genius in order to make the book so realistic that at times I had to remind myself that this was a work of fiction. This is definitely one of the most emotionally-rich and heartbreaking of recent stories.

Kevalee, from The Henrietta Barnett School London

In Bloom narrates the story of Francis Wootton, the fifteen-year-old protagonist who is diagnosed with leukaemia just when he is about to enter Lower Fifth (Year 9). From this introduction you might get the idea that In Bloom is simply a 'cancer' book, talking about the harsh realities of having to cope with cancer. However this is not the case. Obviously cancer is a very sensitive subject, meaning there are many elements of sadness in this book, but what makes In Bloom unique is that there is an equal amount of humour in it, often unintentional. There were times in this book in which I wasn’t sure whether I should be crying my eyes out or laughing my head off. 

When Francis discovers he has the illness he soon starts worrying about it quite a bit and about life in general. This all changes when he meets beautiful and quirky Amber in a hospital and suddenly finds a reason to tackle all the problems his life is throwing at him. In Bloom is a blend of tragedy, humour and romance, woven together to create a perfect plot that keeps you wanting to read more. There are many reasons why I loved this book, but one of the main reasons was because of its honesty. Matthew Crow hasn’t overdone the romance or the tragic elements in this story, but has kept it simple, therefore making it more relatable and likeable. Another reason why I would recommend this book to everybody is because of the characters. There are not many main characters, but each of them has such interesting and often clashing personalities, that often I found myself turning the page just to see how they interact with each other. Cancer books can be very depressing, but In Bloom focuses more on the ‘living’ part of life as opposed to the ‘dying’. 

Overall, In Bloom is a beautifully narrated book, which tells the story of Francis Wootton in an interesting and witty way, making you want to keep on turning the pages.

I would rate this book 9.5/10 for UNPUTDOWNABILTY! It is truly an amazing read, and will leave you feeling satisfied. 

Kishen-Shiv, from East Barnet School

This book is centred on a boy named Francis Wootton, and his experiences while struggling with cancer. He is admitted to a cancer hospital during the first few chapters of the book, and he meets different people and shares his feelings with them. In a way, this book is written like Francis was writing a diary.

I don’t want to ruin the book for you, so I am not going to talk about the contents, but I would recommend this book for anyone 12+ as it has some strong language, swearing and sexual references. If you are a softie you will definitely cry if you read this book, but it is such a good, gripping book that this deserves to be made into a film. An overall 5/5 for this. Well done Mr. Crow for making this book!


Lily, from East Barnet School

In Bloom follows the story of fifteen-year-old Francis Wootton. He lives with his alcoholic but capable mother, his older brother regularly dropping in to steal snacks from the fridge to take back to his own flat. When Francis is diagnosed with leukaemia everything is turned upside down but when he meets feisty cancer patient Amber in hospital he feels strong. Their relationship grows throughout the book in a gripping and heart-wrenching way.

I found this book intriguing and funny. The characters were well developed and the storyline sound. Francis’ thoughts were interesting and I could relate to them. However, I did not find the idea very original. In Bloom was yet another angle on a cancer story. I felt I had read it before and I guessed the ending easily. Despite these bad factors I still enjoyed the book and thought it was very well written.

I would recommend In Bloom to teenagers but I would not be too enthusiastic. Matthew Crow is an excellent author, however, and I would definitely like to read his other books.

Stuti, from The Henrietta Barnett School London

In Bloom is a book about a boy called Francis and his war against leukaemia – which is cancer of the white blood cells in our body. While spending time in the hospital, Francis meets a girl called Amber who is the same age as him and suffering the same cancer conditions. She teaches Francis how to embrace life and how beautiful life is even at difficult times. Other characters I liked were Francis’ mother who worries a lot about him; his brother who always tries to make him laugh; and lastly his grandmother who I think doesn’t like humans!

This was also a very emotionally upsetting book. Francis shares a bit of romance with Amber which is sweet as they are both facing a very challenging time of their life. I think a musical could be made out of this book. It would suit its theme rather well. I can somewhat relate to this story as my mum had cancer not too long ago. It was a very heart-touching story in general.

My Rating: 4/5

Tal, from Jewish Community Secondary School

I have scrolled down this review page on In Bloom countless times, only to see all of the reviewers stating how much they enjoyed the book. Well, now I am going to ruin this ‘clean streak’ a little.

I did some research on Michael Crow from which I only gained two pieces of knowledge: he is only twenty-seven and he is a writer part time. Now, don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against Crow, his language was fantastic and he made the characters feel very real but personally, I found In Bloom boring.

I have read too many novels which have touched cancer and death. When I first read The Fault In Our Stars, I was in love with it and kept re-reading it; then I read two other books, by the same author, both covering very similar topics, and I just sat there thinking to myself ‘What am I doing, I just wasted hours of my time reading what seemed like the same book a hundred times over.’ Of course there is nothing wrong with covering a similar topic, but it is just pointless unless you have made it original. So don’t hate me, but I found In Bloom extremely unoriginal.

The two main characters, Francis and Amber, were very much like Hazel-Grace and Augustus. Crow did a fine job of making the characters feel real, but so did John Green. His depth and use of emotion in the novel was extraordinary, but so was John Green’s. I tried really hard to enjoy the book, but it felt too copy-cat like and unoriginal. 

I’d recommend this book to people who enjoy books similar to The Fault In Our Stars and Wonder; however I am warning you, it might feel like reading the same book again.

Tim, from University College School London

In Bloom is a book about a clever, imaginative boy called Francis who is diagnosed with leukaemia cancer at the age of fifteen. The book is written in the first person and delves into all the things Francis feels and thinks about.

At the young people’s unit of the hospital where Francis is staying he meets Amber, a loud-mouthed girl who isn’t afraid of speaking her mind. Francis falls for Amber but as they move apart it becomes harder for them to see each other and the effects of cancer take their toll. As one gets better and one gets worse Francis has to try everything to keep their love aflame.

My favourite character was Francis, not because he is the main person but because Crow shows how he has a wide imagination and his mind is always thinking about something and I feel I can relate to that as I think I have those same traits. Also, Francis is quite intellectual and is interested about things that other people (as shown in the book) would find boring and I like that.

The book is written well and there were a few hidden phrases that I enjoyed reading as it showed the author was thinking outside the box. For example, at one point, Francis was saying that he felt like Van Gogh and his talents were not being recognised and then his grandma made a joke about cutting his ear off and everyone went silent. I like this because the author linked what Francis was feeling to his leukaemia which hangs over him like a shadow.

The two things I did not like were that in the summary it talks about wanting the best out of life and how to live, and while reading the book I felt that it was more about one boy’s point of view on life. Also, at the end of the book it goes forward six years and I felt that after the detail of the rest of the book, the author slacked off and wanted to rush to the end and it barely brushes upon how Francis’ life got better. There was something I was confused about as well which was that Francis and Amber slept with each other at the age of fifteen which meant they had broken the law so I wondered whether in Tyne and Wear where the book is set that is an ordinary thing.

I would recommend this book to people who enjoy romance with a twist and also philosophers or ‘big thinkers’ as this is quite a philosophical book. I did enjoy this book as it was interesting and at some points funny but it is not really in my preferred genres so I would give it a six out of ten as I am not sure that I would read books like it.