Cover Image: The First Day of Spring

The First Day of Spring

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date:

Member Reviews

This book definitely had me hooked from the first page. It was mysterious and all encompassing. However, for me that’s where the positives end. I felt the story itself lacked depth and it struggled to keep my attention. I’d read a few pages and just feel utterly bored. I think the writing itself was good and I look forward to what the author writes next.
Was this review helpful?
I was unable to finish this book because it became too dark and disturbing to read. I was unable to reconcile the murder of a child with the thought of the protagonist being a mother now.
Since the book kept jumping timelines it also became confusing for me to follow. I am unable to connect with the material, so it won't turn up in my recommendations.
Was this review helpful?
The First Day of Spring by Nancy Tucker another great read from Netgalley 

If you're a fan of We Need to Talk About Kevin or The Push then this is definitely a book you need to pick up asap.

CW: child murder, child abuse, neglect

With the first line of the book being 'I killed a little boy today.' You know from the start this is going to be a rough read. An amazing one despite the difficult subjects it approaches throughout the book.

When 8 year old Chrissie kills a little boy called Stephen, the streets are in turmoil, adament to catch the child killer. Little do they know she walks among them, doing handstands, going to school, playing alongside their own children, desperate to do it again. 

20 years later Chrissie has a new identity and now has a daughter of her own. Desperate to stay hidden with a new name, desperate to be a good mother.

With a dual timeline the story unfolds and you see the inner workings of Chrissie's tormented mind in this disturbing domestic thriller. Neglected by her mother she wanders the streets. 

At times you are horrified by her thoughts and yet you feel torn for this child who is so unwanted and unloved seeking validation. She is so angry with everything and everyone. 

I struggled to put this one down even though I found it quite disturbing and sad.
Was this review helpful?
The first line of this book is probably the best first line I’ve ever read. The story is harrowing and beautiful - it will absolutely stay with me for a long time. I shall be recommending this to my friends who work in education. Incredible.
Was this review helpful?
This is quite an uncomfortable read due to the subject and I struggled the like they main character Chrissie even though she has clearly been neglected as a child which played into her actions but I never felt any remorse from her even when she had her own child and that made it hard to warm to her however the story was fascinating.
Was this review helpful?
Told alternately by Chrissie, who is an eight year old child, and Julia who is an adult with a young child, we learn of the had life Crissie leads, which results in a terrible crime. Very thought provoking.
Was this review helpful?
The First Day of Spring is a compelling and disturbing story that takes us into the darkest thoughts we could imagine. Nancy Tucker has written an unforgettable psychological drama that stands out as a remarkable debut novel.

It is chilling to think of Chrissie, an eight-year-old girl, who opens the story with the line “I killed a little boy today.” What forcefully hits home is the lack of remorse and the clarity of thought as to what happened and how she behaved. It is incredibly unsettling to imagine a child making a conscious decision to kill another child, and that the act of murder made her feel like God and gave her a sense of excitement with a buzz in her stomach. Tick, tick, tick until she can do it again.

“‘So that was all it took,’ I thought. ‘That was all it took for me to feel like I had all the power in the world. One morning, one moment, one yellow-haired boy. It wasn’t so much after all.’ “

Undoubtedly, we’re looking at a psychopath, and with the apparent lack of compassion, Nancy Tucker does a fantastic job of crafting the personality of Chrissie with her intelligent manipulative traits. She takes steps to remain close to the action, daring and unperturbed, discussing the murder with adults, the parents of the child, and police while concealing that she is the killer. Chrissie is a fascinating character, with her friends, at school, with adults and shockingly with her parents. Some minor level of empathy is possible when you consider the disdain her mother has always shown her and the physical state she characterises with lack of food, clothing and cleanliness. The interactions between the children were genuine, and the subtle ways Chrissie demonstrated her callous manipulative behaviour was superb.

Julie is twenty-eight years old and is a single parent with a young daughter, Molly. She worries about social services taking Molly away, especially when Molly broke her arm in a fall when Julie was beside her. Julie has a very nervous and uncertain outlook, fearful of being a parent and a neighbour. The reason for the apprehension and the social services monitoring of her child is unsurprising when you learn Julie is Chrissie twenty years later and after being released from Juvenile Detention. This second timeline works well for reflection, trying to establish a new life and new norm, and if you weren’t provided with the connection, you would believe these to be two very different people. My only issue with this story is the disbelief that the complete transformation of a psychopath can occur, when the tendencies from Chrissie feel part of her DNA.

The First Day of Spring is such a beautifully written book that captures the horrific mood surrounding the murder of a child. The writing conveys the scary environment where an unknown killer threatens the most vulnerable in the community and how adults and children react in this scenario. I couldn’t understand the stark difference between Chrissie and Julie’s personalities, causing me uncertainty about rating this book. I want to thank Random House UK, Cornerstone and NetGalley for providing a free ARC in return for an honest review.
Was this review helpful?
A book of two halves - firstly told by Chrissie, an 8 year old girl neglected. by her parents and allowed to roam wild. You can’t help but feel sorry for her whilst fearing her at the same time.  The second half is narrated by a grown up Chrissie, now called Julia who is scared social services will take her own daughter away from her. 
Quite a difficult read due to,the topics covered but definitely a page turner.
Was this review helpful?
A chilling protagonist, but it was hard not to feel compassion towards her.

‘Bet you can’t see me, bet you can’t find me, bet you can’t catch me.’

There’s something about eight-year-old Chrissie that makes adults wary. Her teacher finds her a handful – argumentative, cheeky, disruptive, and disobedient, and her friend’s mammy even calls her a ‘bad seed’ to her face. Not that Chrissie cares, because her teacher and the mammies are mean and stupid. She firmly believes she is superior to everyone else.

But the adults are right to be afraid. Because Chrissie has a big secret – on the first day of spring she killed a neighbourhood boy named Steven.

Don’t tell…

The First Day of Spring was definitely an emotional read. Half of the novel was narrated by Chrissie as a child, beginning the day of the murder and covering the months after, as the eight-year-old struggled to contain her true nature, used lies and fabrication to cover her tracks, all the while wanting to brag that she was the one who had killed Steven. Chrissie’s upbringing was one of poverty, neglect, emotional abuse, poor nutrition high in sugar, and lack of supervision. There is no doubt in my mind that the early childhood parental abuse inflicted on Chrissie, stunted her emotional, social, cognitive, and physical development exacerbating her psychopathy. As you would expect, Chrissie’s thoughts were disturbing and dark, and her uncontrollable urges to hurt others and do wrong made this a tough read. But, her honesty, innocence, pain, and lack of understanding of the consequences of her actions, coupled with her abusive situation, and the fact that every grown-up in her life let her down, elicited a lot of empathy, and I couldn’t help growing attached to her. 

‘Your mam was the one who was supposed to fill you up when you felt empty, but she had never done that for me. She had given me dregs and scrapings of warmth.’

Not that I ever forgot what Chrissie was – a dangerous, unpredictable ticking time bomb – meaning my sympathy only stretched so far.

Fast forward to another first day of spring, where we were introduced to the second narrator, an adult Chrissie, now twenty-five, with a young daughter of her own. She’s using the name Julia, to hide her identity, as Chrissie’s secret is no longer a secret. The public considers her a monster, a child killer – and so does Julia, as how can she not be, when she’s done such unforgivable things? She lives on tenterhooks that her daughter Molly, the person she loves most in the world, will be taken away from her, while deep down she knows she deserves to lose her daughter, that Molly would be better off without her. Then, the phone calls start. Someone has found her… again…

‘The bunk was twice as long as me, because the cells weren’t meant for kids. If you were younger than ten you didn’t usually go to the cell or have a trial, because whatever bad thing you had done, you were just a kid and it wasn’t your fault. I was only eight, but I still got a cell and a trial. Some things were so bad they stopped you being a kid.’

Nancy Tucker injected a lot of humour into her writing as well, which you would think would be in bad taste, but it completely worked, and prevented things becoming too bleak and depressing. Because that just wouldn’t work for 320 pages.

This will be a slight spoiler as it was not revealed until a quarter of the way through, but as far as trigger warnings go, I feel it’s important to mention that the boy Chrissie killed was only two years old, meaning this read might be too much for some people to stomach. In the prologue, Steven’s referred to as ‘a baby’, and there was an early flashback scene where Chrissie was introduced to Steven when he was a week old and she’s already started primary school, so I knew he couldn’t have been very old when he died. But, it was still a shock to the system to find out that he was so little, undoubtedly too shocking for some to even pick up this book, and I fully understand.

I was a little confused regarding when the book took place, and having finished I’m still none-the-wiser. I had Chrissie’s time period pin-pointed to late 1970’s, and Julia’s to early 90’s, as there were no references to mobile phones or the internet in either POV, Chrissie’s schooling mirrored mine, and video tapes were mentioned circa Julia/Chrissie aged eighteen. But then that theory was blown out the window when a young Chrissie mentioned Stars in their Eyes which didn’t start screening on Irish television until 1990, so now I’m thinking Julia’s time period was more likely set 2007 at the earliest.

So, the week before my audio version was ready to borrow via overdrive I was approved for an e-ARC, but decided to hold off so I could listen instead of read. I suspected this was going to be an amazing audiobook though, because when my loan became available, the no. of days I was allowed the title had been reduced from 25 days to 20, due to popular demand. And I take my hat off to the gifted narrator, Kristin Atherton, as this was one of the best audio listens ever! Applaud! Applaud! Gotta love an East Irish accent. Her voices for the children – Chrissie, Molly, the neighbourhood kids – were incredible. I would definitely listen to this audiobook again, and plan to buy myself a copy via audible.

I’d like to thank Netgalley, Penguin Random House UK Cornerstone, and Nancy Tucker for the e-ARC. I have added The First Day of Spring to my favourites list. More fiction of this high calibre, pretty please Nancy Tucker.
Was this review helpful?
Would rate this 4.5 stars if I could. Dark, dark, and more dark! I'm struggling with my thoughts on this one, not because it was bad - it was a good read. But because it was a very difficult read, straying into definite grey areas.

It was very clever looking at the nature vs nurture angle, and it really made me think. I still can't decide if I've forgiven Chrissie; clearly, she had an awful upbringing and is remorseful, but what she did...

I still can't get over her mother; I'm so angry on Chrissie's behalf. I did feel the ending was a bit too abrupt - I would have liked to see what happens next.

Overall, I would recommend it but give the warning that it is a difficult and uncomfortable story - but told brilliantly.
Was this review helpful?
Thank you to Netgalley for an advanced copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Wow-What can I saw-such a powerful and thought-provoking debut.

Brilliant-well-written-fantastic gripping narrative. 

A recommended read.
Was this review helpful?
This book I had grabbed from Netgalley last year and had forgotten it amongst all my other thousands of books until recently on one of the book groups on Facebook, I belong to had posted a snippet of the first page and OMFG I read it and was like I need to read that book right now and thought before checking the library Libby app, on the off chance I would check my Kindle and there it was. So that instantly became my next read. This was a snipped from the first chapter of the book that captured my attention:
I killed a little boy today. Held my hands around his throat, felt his blood pump hard against my thumbs. He wriggled and kicked and one of his knees caught me in the belly, a sharp lasso of pain. I roared. I squeezed. Sweat made it slippery between our skins but I didn't let go, pressed and pressed until my nails were white. It was easier than I thought it would be. 
Sound fantastic right??? In The First Day of Spring, we meet eight-year-old Chrissie who is viewed as the "bad seed" of the town as she kills two-year-old Steven. The book then continues with the town trying to discover who did it and Chrissie loving seeing the police scramble trying to find the killer.  Later Chrissie feels the urge again and this time kills another and finally is caught. The book then flips to the Present time where Chrissie is now known as Julia and living with her daughter Molly and trying to be the best mum she can be. I liked the ending of this book as it explained a lot why Chrissie had killed and I have to admit by the end of the story, I felt for Chrissie and just wished that someone could have seen her pain and that really, she isn't a bad person but just didn't know how to act and handle her thinking. The First Day of Spring is told in two POVs - the Past as Chrissie and the Present as Julia. 
If you love murder and don't mind child killers and children killed, then The First Day of Spring by Nancy Tucker is a book to add to your reading list for 2022.
Was this review helpful?
I quite enjoyed this book.  It was gripping from the first sentence and it kept me reading.  It was a very interesting book and well written.
Was this review helpful?
I absolutely adored this. I really needed a thriller to bounce back from a little reading slump and this was perfect. It was equal parts heartbreaking and terrifying. Chrissie was the devil but at the heart of it neglected and unloved. Just brilliant and loved it!
Was this review helpful?
I must be honest, and admit that I struggled with the first quarter of this book, until something just seemed to click in to place for me. It is a difficult read with often harrowing subject matter, but it is an important book nonetheless.

Chrissie is a neglected young girl, often left to fend for herself with no clean clothes and no food. Unloved and uncared for, she can often be found wandering the streets, or picking select friends to 'play' with, because she knows that she will be fed, or at the very least be able to have some sweets.

She is afraid of nothing, and no one, even brazenly stealing from the local shop so that she can get her hands on sweets, defying the shopkeeper, and confirming her own thoughts that she is 'bad'. Chrissie understands that being bad makes her feel powerful, a feeling that she doesn't get at home. 

A feeling that leads to her act in a terrifying manner with tragic consequences...

Julia is a scared first time Mum, scared of messing up, and scared of the authorities due to her unconventional upbringing. Although she is scared that they may take her daughter away, she doesn't feel that she should be. She feels that she deserves to be punished for a terrible crime she committed when she was younger, and that justice will finally be served.

She is unable to forgive herself, so why should anyone else?

The First Day of Spring is a remarkable book, recommended but with a word of caution-it's not for the easily disturbed.
Was this review helpful?
This is a difficult distressing read but certainly a page turner. It’s told over two timelines, one as 8 year old Chrissie child killer and the other as adult Chrissie with her own daughter. The killing of a child is hard enough, but when it’s committed by another child it’s hard to understand. Chrissie was unloved, underfed and left to her own devices. She didn’t have any boundaries or parental guidance. Did this lead her to become a killer? In that respect you can’t help but feel empathy for her, even though you know what she did was very wrong. I found my feelings for her flip all the way through the book and it’s certainly not for the faint hearted. This is the author’s debut novel and I would definitely read more from them. Thank you to NetGalley and Random House UK, Cornerstone, Penguin for letting me read and review this book.
Was this review helpful?
Thank you to the publishers for the opportunity to read this book. Unfortunately this book just wasn't for me. I loved the premise of this book but I found the content quite confronting which is definitely a kudos to the author for the emotive writing. The main issue I had with this book is that I didn't connect with the style of writing so I couldn't get absorbed in the story.
Was this review helpful?
Little Chrissie is a difficult child to find any empathy for and it’s not just knowing what she did. She has a smart mouth and can be cruel with both her thoughts and actions. The author has given her an upbringing of being unloved and suffering from neglect, often having to go without food as there is none in the house. Her mother at one point, in a really tragic scene, goes as far as to try to give her away. Even with this heartbreaking backstory I still found I couldn’t accept it as an excuse, her narration had put pay to that. She acts like she is God and her bravado with her secret was astonishing and taunting, using it makes her feel all powerful. I wanted her to be caught and punished, made to pay for her shocking crime against an innocent little boy. She invoked in me a quiet but all consuming rage.

Then she becomes Julia, as a parent I judged her and her abilities to be a mother after what she had done. Has she paid enough for what she did? Should she be given a chance? How could she possibly be trusted? I have definitely come to understand that this is the reason they are given new identities, away from where the crime was committed.

This book will tear at your emotions, pulling you in two separate directions. The narration from eight year old killer Chrissie will turn you inside out and upside down as you struggle to comprehend both her life and her actions. This is an astonishing debut and while it won’t be for everyone due to it’s topic for those that do read it, you will be rewarded with a book that is as thrilling as it is alarming.
Was this review helpful?
This was an uncomfortable read. The story of Chrissie/Julia is sad and upsetting. As a child Chrissie was left to run the streets with her friends. Scavenging for food - hungry, unloved and uncared for. Her mother a husk of a human being. Her friends are all loved and cared for and she is jealous, at the age of 8 she just doesn’t understand what this means. With little adult interaction she spends a lot of time in her head trying to make sense of the world around her and the things the adults say. 

The book runs in two timelines - before and after, when she is Chrissie and when she is the adult Julia. As an adult Julia now has a little girl called Molly. Who is the centre of her universe. Although she is constantly waiting for the other show to drop and for social services to remove her - because Julia feels that is her punishment for the sick things she did as a child. 

This is a story of loss, pain, hurt, and redemption. I will still be thinking about it long after I’ve completed it.
Was this review helpful?
EXCERPT: I killed a little boy today. Held my hands around his throat, felt his blood pump hard against my thumbs. He wriggled and kicked and one of his knees caught me in the belly, a sharp lasso of pain. I roared. I squeezed. Sweat made it slippy between our skins but I didn't let go, pressed and pressed until my nails were white. It was easier than I thought it would be.

ABOUT 'THE FIRST DAY OF SPRING': Chrissie knows how to steal sweets from the shop without getting caught, the best hiding place for hide-and-seek, the perfect wall for handstands.

Now she has a new secret. It gives her a fizzing, sherbet feeling in her belly. She doesn't get to feel power like this at home, where food is scarce and attention scarcer.

Fifteen years later, Julia is trying to mother her five-year-old daughter, Molly. She is always worried - about affording food and school shoes, about what the other mothers think of her. Most of all she worries that the social services are about to take Molly away.

That's when the phone calls begin, which Julia is too afraid to answer, because it's clear the caller knows the truth about what happened all those years ago.

And it's time to face the truth: is forgiveness and redemption ever possible for someone who has killed?

MY THOUGHTS: Inside Chrissie's head is a scary place to be. Probably the scariest place I've been. It's dark, disturbing and more than sad. An eight year old should be full of the joys of life. Chrissie is full of nothing, except rage. The word 'neglect' doesn't even begin to cover Chrissie's mother's treatment of her. She tries to give Chrissie away. Her dad keeps disappearing. The other children have two parents, they are cared for - fed, and clothed, and loved. Chrissie wants this for herself, all of it.

The book is narrated entirely from the point of view of Chrissie/Julia. Chrissie as the neglected and abused eight year old child and Julia as the mother she becomes. As Julia struggles to be the mother she wanted to have, her backstory as Chrissie is revealed.

One of the most emotionally stunning points in the book is when Chrissie reveals, 'Most people were scared of me, at least a little bit. Just how I liked it.' This is an eight year old child! She is vicious, spiteful, and violent. She lies. She just wants to be loved, but has no idea how to be. She has no moral compass, no role model. Tucker's portrayal of the child Chrissie puts the reader inside the mind of a seriously disturbed eight year old, accurately depicting an eight year old's emotions, naivety and thought processes. It is not a comfortable experience.

Adult Julia is a slave to routine, giving her and Molly's lives structure. But she lives with the guilt of what she did when she was Chrissie, and the fear that someone, one day, will take her own daughter away from her. After all, isn't that just what she deserves?

The First Day of Spring is a tense, addictive and harrowing read. There were times I felt physically sick at the neglect, the cruelty, the cries for help that went unanswered, and both Chrissie and Julia's loneliness. This is a book that pummels the emotions and makes no apologies for doing so. Chrissie the child horrifies and appalls; Julia the adult tugs at the heartstrings and embodies hope.

A thought provoking and ultimately satisfying read.

⭐⭐⭐⭐.3

#TheFirstDayofSpring #NetGalley

I: @nancycntucker @randomhouseuk

T: @NancyCNTucker @RandomHouseUK

#contemporaryfiction #familydrama #crime #mentalhealth

THE AUTHOR: Nancy Tucker was born and raised in West London. She spent most of her adolescence in and out of hospital suffering from anorexia nervosa. On leaving school, she wrote her first book, THE TIME IN BETWEEN (Icon, 2015) which explored her experience of eating disorders and recovery. Her second book, THAT WAS WHEN PEOPLE STARTED TO WORRY (Icon, 2018), looked more broadly at mental illness in young women.

Nancy recently graduated from Oxford University with a degree in Experimental Psychology. Since then she has worked in an inpatient psychiatric unit for children and adolescents and in adult mental health services. She now works as an assistant psychologist in an adult eating disorders service. The First Day of Spring is her first work of fiction. (Amazon)

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Random House UK, Cornerstone via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of The First Day of Spring by Nancy Tucker for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

For an explanation of my rating system please refer to my Goodreads.com profile page or the about page on sandysbookaday.wordpress.com

This review is also published on Twitter, Amazon, Instagram and my webpage
Was this review helpful?