Bright Star is locked in her manager’s office, Cynthia is locked in a friend’s basement and Ayley is locked in her bedroom. Sound of Pen’s ‘fTrE’ novel explores what happens next.

  • MUSIC FOCUS: Taylor Swift/Sigrid/Tate McRae-inspired pop music.
  • ACTIVITY FOCUS: Read the extract below, then answer the questions which require you to analyse writing methods. Then have a go at the creative writing task. Questions are structured in format of AQA GCSE Language Paper 1, but answers can be constructed in manner to suit any GCSE/A-level analysis task.

‘NO U IN FTRE’ is the latest project from Sound of Pen. The videos accompanying: chapter 1, chapter 2, chapter 3 and chapter 4 were constructed to support the answering of the questions at the bottom of this page, directly beneath chapter 5.

You can go here to read the story so far all in one go.

Make sure to come back soon for chapter 6 x

‘NO U IN FTRE’ takes us inside the lives of pop sensation Bright Star, despondent songwriter Cynthia and piano-playing Ayley. Bright Star is locked in her manager’s office, Cynthia is locked in a friend’s basement and Ayley is locked in her bedroom – all three characters struggle with their mental health, the grown-up men who try to control them and an education system that never gave them a chance. The haters stalking them on social media don’t help much either. It’s these shared struggles that will ultimately lead the three girls to the very same place at the very same time.

5. Ayley

I work harder and longer than I ever did when I was at school. Every second feels like it needs grabbing. I use each moment until there’s nothing left of it to use. Time is precious. And I get how it sounds when someone like me says there are more important things than money, and I do understand how lucky I am to live such a privileged life – I really do. But money isn’t everything. It isn’t. And, yeah, I know they think that’s easy for me to say, but I’ve been poor. Poorer than anyone else I’ve ever met.

They called me pikey.

They called me a lot of things.

They told me I was nothing.

I was free, then, in a way I’m not now. Maybe in a way only children can be. I don’t know. What I do know is that I’m sick of this feeling of being trapped. So, I’m teaching myself the things I was never good enough at. Or that I never worked hard enough at. I could sit here in my ivory tower – or whatever people want to call it – and do nothing. And go nowhere. But that’s not me. Not anymore.

I write and I rewrite then I rewrite again. The music’s been playing for hours. Another Bright Star song comes on. It’s not that great. I can do better. I’m sure I can.

My bedroom door swings open. Mum never learnt how to knock. She never needed to. All the space in our caravan was shared. There was only a curtain keeping my bed separate from hers. And when I was smaller, not even that. I didn’t care. Not back then.

What happened?

I forgot how to be free, that’s what happened. I got a room and a door and I felt like I’d been let out of my cage. But now I understand that’s not what happened at all. Instead, the world offered me a perch and I climbed right on it and learnt to sing a pretty song.

It felt good to be normal.

It felt liberating.

Now I know better – because this isn’t normal. And now we live in a world where Mum’s meant to knock on doors. And after years of living on the wind, it’s super-weird to watch her thinking twice before she blows where she wants. And then never really going anywhere she wants at all.

We’re not free.

I know it.

Which means we should hop right back on our cloud and float off towards the horizon, right?

Only thing is, I’m pretty sure that’s not the kind of freedom I want anymore. And Mum can go to hell. She’s a wacko anyway.

I rewrite again. I take a word out, put a word in. I delete a whole line, then undo my editing. I’m getting somewhere.

“Everything okay?” Mum asks.

“Sure,” I say without looking up from my computer.

Bright Star’s latest single is still blaring from my speakers.

“This is a good song,” Mum says, like she even knows what a good song is.

“It’s not,” I tell her, and now I do turn around.

Mum shrugs the way she does when she doesn’t understand.

“What do you want for dinner?”

“Just order something in.”

“Are you sure?”

Am I sure? I’m sure I can’t deal with my mother pretending that this conversation isn’t going to end with one of us calling for pizza.

“Are you alright?” she asks when I stay quiet.

I hear the hopelessness, the helplessness, in her voice and I wish I could swat it away, but I can’t and I inhale it like smoke. Something’s burning down and I want to throw water over it. But I can’t even see it.

“I’ll order pizza,” Mum shrugs at last.

She turns and leaves the room.

“Thanks,” I say eventually, but it’s too late.

We don’t live in the caravan anymore and Mum’s already out of earshot.



Read again the first parts of this chapter (in purple). List four things about the narrator, Ayley, from this part of the source.


Look in detail at the green section of this extract. How does the writer use language to describe the different ways of living that Ayley and her mother have experienced?

You could include the writer’s choice of:
• words and phrases
• language features and techniques
• sentence forms.


You now need to think about the whole of the source. How has the writer structured the text to interest you as a reader?

You could write about:
• what the writer focuses your attention on at the beginning of the source
• how and why the writer changes this focus as the source develops
• any other structural features that interest you


Focus this part of your answer on the second part of the source – in blue. A student said, ‘Throughout this section, it’s easy to feel sympathy for Ayley’s mother. It is much harder to feel sorry for Ayley.’

To what extent do you agree?

In your response, you could:
• consider your own impressions of Ayley’s feelings
• evaluate how the writer describes Ayley’s feelings


Write a story – or the opening to a story – about a complicated relationship.