Teenage romances are ten-a-penny, but the grandeur of a Norwegian setting is not the only element that sets Lucy van Smit’s debut novel apart... English girl Nell, transplanted unwillingly to the fjords, makes utterly foolish choices when she falls for the handsome adopted son of an oil-wealthy family — but because we see through her eyes, her choices are understandable if not exactly forgivable. Manipulated by Lukas, Nell agrees to steal a baby and flee with him to a remote mountain fastness. The Hurting becomes a tale of raw survival when Nell has to navigate the icy, wolf-ravaged wilderness, wanted by police, pursued by the vengeful Lukas and tormented by her conscience. There’s even a touch of mysticism. Most impressive is the growing love she finds for the baby “Ulv Pup” — wolf cub — who develops into a forceful presence.
Lucy van Smit’s The Hurting (Chicken House, £7.99) invites us into the atmospheric world of Norwegian fjords and mountains, a beautiful wilderness that the raised-by-wolves Lukas thinks of as home, urging Nell to follow suit. With her family life less than ideal – her father is an alcoholic who “prays to God, but his money’s on the Devil”; her sister’s cancer “trumps everything”; her mother abandoned them years ago – Nell finds the allure of running away and creating a new family with Lukas and his baby brother too much to resist, even though the warning signs are there. Nell’s capacity to recognise the potential dangers while also yearning to be with this charismatic boy makes this taut thriller completely believable. She’s a compelling heroine from a writer to watch.