Black Teeth and a Brilliant Smile by Adelle Stripe (Fleet Books paperback, £8.99)

Andrea Dunbar was pregnant at 14, was working in the same mill her parents had by the time she was 16, and by 19 had her debut play on at the Royal Court in London. She went on to write Rita Sue and Bob Too, a hugely popular film of the 1980s, but by the age of 29 she was dead of a brain haemorrhage.

This is a fictionalised account of her life pieced together from interviews, reports and conjecture. It is about growing up on a bleak council estate near Bradford. It’s about being trapped by fear and mistrust that has been bred in you for generations. It’s about 70s and 80s Britain.

Dunbar was discovered to have a unique voice. She was highly intelligent and searingly honest in her writing and observations. She was very funny but lacked the confidence to know when people were laughing with her rather than at her.

The novel is gripping and written with real insight. The Buttershaw estate is described in gruesome detail, as is the violence Dunbar experiences and the poignant unravelling of her young life. It is not all grim though: there are plenty of funny anecdotes. I particularly enjoyed the bits when Andrea goes to London to work on her play. It is so far removed from her own world and the way Stripe describes it brings into clarity how fake it must have seemed to Dunbar.

At one point, someone spends £48 on a round of cocktails (more than most people earn in a week) and Dunbar keeps the receipt to show her mum.

This is a story about the difficulty of having no aspirations or expectations and about having no one to help or guide you through an alien environment. A gritty northern novel everyone should read.

Review by Philippa Morris, Little Apple bookshop