MJ Hyland (Canongate)

Like life, fiction would be dull if you knew all the answers, and MJ Hyland is a master at keeping the cards close to her chest.

As with her two previous novels How The Light Gets In and Booker-shortlisted Carry Me Down, the author chooses as narrator a young male, slowly revealed to be at odds with the world.

Patrick Oxtoby is a 23-year-old mechanic trying to fix a broken heart by escaping to a seaside town.

The twists and turns that led to his situation filter through as the reader becomes sucked into the mind of a man wrestling between the desire to be loved and a fierce self-preservation that makes it almost impossible to do so.

The combination makes him dangerously unpredictable, even to himself, and the second half of the book sees Oxtoby in prison.

Hyland’s knack for description locks you in there with Oxtoby, and through every sleepless night and inedible meal you join his quest to find the inner peace that comes with human affection.