Review: Barry Squires, Full Tilt

Title: Barry Squires, Full Tilt
Author: Heather Smith
Genre: Young Adult
Publisher: Penguin Teen
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Format: Ebook
Release Date: September 22, 2020
Rating: ★★★★


Goodreads Synopsis:

Barry Squires, Full Tilt takes readers on a romp through the streets of St. John’s and into the Squires household, a place where tragedy strikes but love prevails. Derry Girls meets Billy Elliot with an East coast twist.

It’s 1995. When the Full Tilt Dancers give an inspiring performance at the opening of the new bingo hall, twelve-year-old Finbar (Barry) Squires wants desperately to join the troupe. Led by Father O’Flaherty, the Full Tilt Irish Step Dancers are the most sought-after act in St. John’s, Newfoundland (closely followed by popular bagpiper, Alfie Bragg and his Agony Bag). Having watched Riverdance twice, Barry figures he’ll nail the audition. And good thing too — it’d be nice to be known for something other than the port wine stain on his cheek. With questionable talent and an unpredictable temper, Barry’s journey to stardom is jeopardized by his parents’ refusal to take his dreams seriously. Thankfully, Barry has the support of a lively cast of characters: his ever-present grandmother, Nanny Squires; his adorable baby brother, Gord; an old British rocker named Uneven Steven; a group of geriatrics from the One Step Closer to God nursing home; and Saibal, a friend with whom Barry gets up to no good. 

Told with humor and a healthy dose of irreverence, Barry Squires, Full Tilt takes readers on a rowdy romp through the streets of St. John’s and into the Squires household, a place where tragedy strikes, but love prevails.


Barry Squires wants to find something to define his life, other than the birthmark on his face. He decides he wants to join the Full Tilt Dancers, a river dance team in St. John’s, Newfoundland. Barry gains the support of his friends and family on his quest to become a Full Tilt dancer, until tragedy strikes his family, changing their dynamic.

I loved the Newfoundland experience in this book. I went to Newfoundland for the first time last year, and this story reminded me so much of that trip. There were hilarious sayings throughout the story, such as what Barry says to his homeless friend about his principal one day: “‘She had a face on her like a smacked arse,’ I said. ‘That woman is as crooked as sin.’” The older characters often referred to younger ones as “my love” or “my duck” as terms of endearment. This Newfoundland dialogue was authentic.

The characters also had a friendly, familiar quality. Barry’s family was full of quirky people, such as his dad who was a clockmaker, yet didn’t want any clocks in the house because he had to listen to them tick all day at work. Barry would get words mixed up all the time. One day he said “‘It’s a proven fact that people who run late are optometrists – and being full of optometry is a great personality trait.’” His teacher figured out he actually meant “optimist” not “optometrist.” These quirks and funny stories made the characters so realistic.

This story took a tragic turn about three quarters of the way through that I was not expecting. I had grown to love these characters, and I felt like I knew them, so it made the tragedy much more upsetting. I don’t want to spoil it, so I won’t give away what happened to the family. However, Barry’s close knit family was able to stick together, despite their tragedy.

This is a great Newfoundland story!

Thank you Penguin Random House Canada for providing a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

What to read next:

The Agony of Bun O’Keefe by Heather Smith

Chicken Girl by Heather Smith

Have you read Barry Squires, Full Tilt? What did you think of it?

Author: jilljemmett

Jill lives in Toronto, Canada. She has studied English, Creative Writing, and Publishing. Jill is the creator and content producer of Jill’s Book Blog, where she has published a blog post every day for the last four years, including 5-7 book reviews a week. She can usually be found with her nose in a book.

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