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Literature / Stone Cold

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Stone Cold is a YA novel by Robert Swindells that tackles the subject of teenage homelessness and the attitudes that actually keep people on the streets. It's two narrators are Link (no, not that one), recently made homeless due to the actions of his abusive stepfather, and Shelter, a former army officer who aims to deal with London's homeless in his own grisly way.

Stone Cold provides examples of

  • The Alcoholic: Vince. And when he gets drunk, he gets violent.
  • Abusive Parents: Vince, Link and Carole's stepfather. He more or less pushes Link out of the family home. Link isn't really sure what Vince did to Carole, but it made her want to clear out of there as soon as possible.
  • Berserk Button: Shelter absolutely hates it when someone criticizes or mocks the army. His belief that Link and Ginger were laughing at him results in him targeting them personally as Laughing Boy One and Laughing Boy Two.
  • Big Brother Mentor: Ginger takes Link under his wing and teaches him how to survive on the streets. At least until Shelter gets a hold of him.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Sure, Shelter is arrested and his killing spree comes to an end, but Link is left heartbroken over Gail's deception, traumatized due to nearly being murdered, and the friends he made while in the Camden area of London are dead.
  • Character Tic: All of Shelter's narrative is marked as "Daily Routine Orders (number)" reflecting his army background.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Link's watch is stolen shortly after he arrives in London. He spots it on Shelter's mantlepiece and realizes the trouble he's in.
  • Conspiracy Theorist: Shelter genuinely believes the government, the civil service, the police and the church want to fill the streets with homeless people because there's no more National Service.
  • The Cynic: A life on the streets has left Ginger incredibly jaded. Unsurprisingly, Link becomes one by the end as, he's now traumatised as well as homeless.
  • Disappeared Dad: Link's father runs off with his mistress before the story begins, perhaps explaining why his mother chooses to keep Vince over protecting her children.
  • Domestic Abuse: Vince. Link gets the worst of it but it's heavily implied that he molested Carole.
  • Drill Sergeant Nasty: Shelter's job in the army until he was discharged. He pretty much saw his job as turning 'absolute garbage' into disciplined soldiers.
  • Evil Laugh: Shelter lets one out after tricking the police when they question him about Toya's disappearance.
  • From Bad to Worse: Pretty much Link's entire experience. He goes from dealing with an abusive stepfather, to navigating the streets of Bradford, to becoming homeless in London, to nearly being murdered.
  • He-Man Woman Hater: Shelter's attitude to women isn't much better than his attitude to homeless people. The first time he sees Link with Gail, he refers to her as 'some tart in a café.'
  • Intrepid Reporter: Gail is revealed to be a journalist posing as a homeless woman for a bit of research. Link does not take this news well.
  • Ironic Name: Shelter does this deliberately to make his victims feel more comfortable around him. Of course his method of dealing with homelessness isn't exactly kind.
    • A minor character is referred to as Captain Hook by London's homeless teens. He's kinder than most, offering them a safe, warm place to sleep on his boat in exchange for a few pounds.
  • It's Personal: Exaggerated in Shelter's case. He claims Ginger and Link both laughed at him when he rebukes them, so makes it his job to kill them as soon as possible.
  • Jerkass:
    • Vince, Link and Carole's abusive stepfather who practically pushes them out of their own home.
    • Chris, Carole's boyfriend really resents Link's presence to the point where Link ends up with nowhere to go.
    • Carole and Link's mother to a lesser extent. Instead of offering him somewhere to stay or helping him get back on his feet. They give him a sleeping bag for Christmas and a little bit of money before waving him off to London.
  • Kind Hearted Cat Lover: Shelter exploits this trope by adopting a cat named Sappho to make himself come across as more affable and comforting. However, it's pretty clear he doesn't actually care about Sappho and is only using her to lure people in.
  • Known Only by Their Nickname: Pretty much everyone, save for Link's family, goes by a nickname or pseudonym. Link, Shelter, Ginger, Toya, Gail. Toya's name is revealed to be Tanya when the police and her family look for her. Gail turns out to be a reporter named Louise.
  • Manipulative Bastard: Shelter. From getting a cat to make people feel more at ease in his presence, claiming he's opened up a new hostel on Plender Street, to tricking the streetwise Ginger into believing Link has been injured to get him into his home. He even fools the police when they question him about Toya, who by this point is his most recent victim.
  • Na´ve Newcomer: Link's first week in London doesn't go too well. He cannot get a job, so cannot pay his rent, so ends up on the streets. Not only that, he ends up having his watch pinched within minutes.
  • Oh, Crap!: Link realizes Shelter isn't as nice as he seems when he sees his stolen watch on the mantlepiece.
  • The Reveal: Gail turns out to be an undercover journalist named Louise Bain doing research on homelessness.
  • Serial Killer: Shelter makes it his mission to eradicate the homeless from London's streets, permanently. By the time he makes a move on Link, he has a body count of seven.
  • Shell-Shocked Veteran: Shelter was dismissed from the army on medical grounds, although he clearly doesn't recognize that he might have a few mental issues which led to his dismissal.
  • Trauma Conga Line: Link is rejected by his family, pushed out of his home, rents a room but loses it because he cannot get a job, his best friend and mentor is murdered, he's nearly murdered himself and the woman he began to have feelings for turns out to be a journalist who can go back to her cozy life once her research is over.
  • Useless Bystander Parent: Link's mother knows Vince is abusive but allows him to chase both her children out of the house. It's implied he sexually assaulted Carole and he is both emotionally and physically abusive to Link. It all comes to ahead at Christmas where Vince hurls insults at Link as both his mother and sister do nothing. To hammer the point home, they gift him a sleeping bag, indicating they would rather abandon him than get rid of Vince.