I was delighted to be offered the opportunity to read and review Lucy Ayrton’s debut novel, One More Chance. It is published by Dialogue Books, a new imprint of Little, Brown Book Group which aims to promote diverse voices in publishing.
THE BATTLE ON THE INSIDE IS JUST THE BEGINNING
Dani hasn’t had an easy life. She’s made some bad choices and now she’s paying the ultimate price; prison.
With her young daughter Bethany, growing up in foster care, Dani is determined to be free and reunited with her. There’s only one problem; Dani can’t stay out of trouble.
Dani’s new cellmate Martha is quiet and unassuming. There’s something about her that doesn’t add up. When Martha offers Dani one last chance at freedom, she doesn’t hesitate.
Everything she wants is on the outside, but Dani is stuck on the inside. Is it possible to break out when everyone is trying to keep you in…
I thought that Dani was a fantastic character, and one that is sadly all too representative of many young women today. The reader quickly learns that she has been in and out of prison since her late teens, and it’s clear that she knows how to handle herself, striking the difficult balance of not getting herself into trouble (most of the time) yet not letting others push her around, either. Whilst she encourages her image of someone not to be messed with, it’s apparent that there’s a delicate individual underneath the façade, and I loved these little glimpses of a vulnerable individual who understands that she is caught up in a cycle of drugs, crime, and prison, yet feels powerless to do anything about it.
As well as seeing Dani in prison, there are also flashbacks to her younger days, exploring how she ended up where she did. This is a common tale of an unhappy childhood and behaviour that spiralled out of control from an early age as she felt that those around – her mother, the man her mother moves in with (I don’t think they actually get married) – didn’t care about her, gave her a hard time, and, before long, gave up on her. Ayrton doesn’t blame the parents explicitly – Dani’s behaviour is very much her own – but it’s no secret that an unhappy childhood may lead to criminal behaviour in adults, and in Dani’s case it has led her to self-harm, drug abuse, and the crimes associated with funding a habit.
The main aspect of the plot centres on Dani, and how she might get back to her daughter who is in foster care. Whilst Dani feels that the system is against her – that the vocational courses offered won’t help her, that no one will employ her, that she has no home to go to on the outside – her new cell mate, the mysterious and otherworldly Martha, provides her with an alternative. The plot does stray a little into the realms of fantasy to achieve its aim, and yet it still felt very real, and readers who are sceptical of such plot devices shouldn’t be put off by this. I don’t want to explore this in any detail – you’ll have to find out for yourself if she makes it out or not.
Ayrton has used her experience working for a prison charity to full effect to give the reader an insight into what life is like on the inside for young women today, and the hopelessness that many feel. The characters and the setting are authentic, and I loved the snippets of statistics and excerpts from the Prison Service Instructions which add context to the story and emphasise Dani’s experiences. Despite parts of the plot being slightly fantastical, this novel opens the reader up to the harsh reality of a prisoner’s life, and yet still manages to incorporate moments of hope. I’m looking forward to seeing what Ayrton does next.
One More Chance is published in paperback on 15 November, and is available to purchase now on Kindle ( for just £0.99 at the time of writing this post!). Many thanks to Millie Seaward for the opportunity to read and review this novel.