Book to Nobody touched so many

Author Berlie Doherty
Author Berlie Doherty

Author Berlie Doherty is pleased to see her book Dear Nobody included as one of 17 iconic novels aimed at young adults.

Berlie, who lives in Edale these days but has strong Sheffield links, wrote Dear Nobody in 1990. The book has been included in the Penguin series called The Originals, out in early August.

Like many of Berlie’s books, Dear Nobody is set in Sheffield and tells of two points of view.

There’s a series of letters from pregnant teenager Helen to her unborn child, Nobody, and a first person narrative from Chris, the father, presenting the events as he recalls them as he prepares to head off to university.

Controversial on its publication in 1991, the book has since been well established as a classic young adult novel exploring teenage pregnancy.

t also won Berlie the prestigious Carnegie Medal from the Library Association and has been adapted for both theatre and TV, as well as being translated into many languages.

Berlie said: “I decided to write about teenage pregnancy and a boy as the main character. With the girl, you hear her thoughts from the letters she writes to the unborn child.

“It was a challenging thing to do. I tried to write it in the length of time it takes to have a baby which posed all kinds of challenges.

“When I got to the end I was quite pleased with how it came out.

“What I really wanted to do was show the boy’s feelings. He really takes responsibility and cares.

“I wanted to show that and not just the effect on teenagers but on their families.”

Berlie said she had a huge response to the book, especially when it was first published, and hopes that the relaunch with a new cover will get it back in the spotlight again.

She said: “I like writing for teenagers and I thought what’s the sort of thing that matters to them – relationships and falling in love and something going wrong. I just went with that.”

Berlie said she started writing when she was very small, as a youngster in Liverpool. “I always wrote as a child. Some of it I showed to other people and it’d be published in the local newspaper. A lot of it I kept very secret.”

But as she grew up, life got in the way. “I found I didn’t have time to write until I had very small children going to school. Then I thought ‘now’s my time’ and I started again.

“It came pouring out, I would not be able to stop writing.” Everything she had bottled up suddenly was unleashed.

She’s never stopped since and has now produced more than 60 books, plus radio and stage plays, and is still writing.

Berlie moved to Sheffiel with her first husband went on to study education as a post-graduate at Sheffield University.

A short story, written as part of a course in creative writing there, was the basis for her first adult novel, Requiem, about life in a convent school.

She said: “It just happened really. Requiem was a short story that was broadcast on Radio Sheffield.

“After it had been broadcast the producer, Dave Sheasby, asked me to write for schools programmes.

“I really liked writing for children, especially for teenagers. There wasn’t much for them to read then and they had to skip straight to adult novels, which wasn’t always appropriate. I had an area to be writing in.”

Her time on schools programmes also led to Berlie’s book White Peak Farm, about the challenges of rural life.

Other books set locally include Granny Was a Buffer Girl.