Small Fish Big Fish – a coming of age thriller book for young adults


Small Fish Big Fish is a coming of age thriller set in Scotland, written for teens and young adults.

It’s 1965. The Rolling Stones’ Satisfaction is number one worldwide, Thunderball is setting new box-office records for James Bond movies, and the mini skirt has made its first appearance in London.

Like many teenagers, seventeen-year-old Jamie is struggling to navigate his way through the uncharted waters of growing up: the world of first dates, intimate relationships, trust, self doubt, and the search for meaning.

When Jamie discovers some money on the floor of the corner store, he thinks his luck is in. But sometimes, what seems like fortune’s kindly smile is a mask hiding a twisted and cruel face.

And so it is with Jamie. The seemingly innocent decision to keep the money triggers a series of events that traps him in a quagmire of deception and criminality, threatened by a bully determined to destroy his life.

Read Small Fish Big Fish and you’ll agree this is a great coming of age thriller book that portrays life as it was in nineteen-sixties Scotland; a time and place where loyalty, and courage are tested to the limit.

Small Fish Big Fish – a coming of age novel for young adults

a coming of age thriller book

The Characters

“What a great read, I couldn’t put it down!! Loved the story and all the characters.”

Jamie McCarthy. Doing his best to avoid becoming a victim of the criminal elements in his neighborhood. And so far, the seventeen-year-old has been lucky. That’s about to change…

Archie Stewart. The gang leader with big ideas. He comes from an abusive family: his father is an alcoholic who regularly beats his wife and children, his mother is a floozy, and his sister, Trish can’t stand him. Nineteen-year-old Archie is your nightmare. He will do anything to survive.

Tianyi Chi. Archie’s girlfriend is a fifteen-year-old refugee whose family were lost at sea while trying to escape from China before Mao’s cultural revolution made that impossible. Archie wants to keep the relationship secret, fearful of how it might affect his reputation. Tragedy follows Tianyi around like a shark hunting prey. You can take a free peak at Tianyi’s story in Guilt of the Innocents.

Sandy Morrison. Stephen’s violet-eyed, fun-loving, dream girl has a secret. Her brother, Daniel, is serving nine months in Barlinnie prison for aggravated assault. And he’s about to be released.

If you are looking for a great coming of age story, you can’t go past SMALL FISH BIG FISH!

A gripping young adult thriller, Small Fish Big Fish, tells of the relationship between a small group of teenagers struggling towards maturity in an impoverished suburb of Scotland during the nineteen sixties.

This is a true-to-life novel, told through the eyes of three unique individuals. If you enjoy stories with a compelling cast of characters, suspenseful mystery, and a touch of young romance, then you’ll love PJ McDermott’s twist on the traditional coming-of-age book.

Judge for yourself whether this is one of the best thriller books for teenagers! You can get an insight into the motivations of one of the character’s in Guilt of the Innocents.

What Readers Say:

Has strong appeal to a wide audience

The cast of characters are robust and well- developed, which makes this far more complex than a simple ‘good guy versus bad guy’ scenario. There are times when, as a reader, I found myself sympathizing with characters I wanted to help.This is a tale with a strong appeal to a wide audience. It includes sex and violence but is not gratuitous; both are an essential part of the plot. I recommend this book to anyone who remembers the struggle of growing into adulthood.

A. Moran-Soley
Amazon UK

This is a great coming of age thriller and I highly recommend it

“This book is fantastic any way you look at it and I think it has a very wide appeal. The author’s writing contains the perfect blend of each element of the story. Characters feel like real people and scenery pops off the pages.

As to the story, the main character is a teenager facing very typical issues. You really learn to sympathize with him right away.

He is having a rough time but his luck seemingly turns around when he finds a lot of money. He clearly struggles with how to handle it – does he turn it in, or find a way to spend it carefully without drawing attention?

Then there’s the neighborhood bully who gives him trouble. It really reminds you of those kids from your school days who used to be jerks and rubbed you the wrong way. Seriously, this is a great read and I HIGHLY RECOMMEND IT!”
Doug Egglesten

An absorbing well-crafted novel

“Small Fish Big Fish is an absorbing, well crafted novel that follows Jamie as he navigates through a series of difficult obstacles placed before him.There are a number of memorable characters that enter the story: D, Julie, Archie, and many others, and I found that as the story moved along I became more invested in the outcome of the plot and the fate of the characters.”

K. Kumar

Mystery, action, romance. Read this now!

“McDermott’s writing clearly conveys a solid sense of character, setting and time. I felt like I was really ‘there’ throughout the story. The plot is complex and requires attention, but McDermott’s writing make that easy.This book has multiple elements: mystery, action, romance, and excellent characterization. If you’re looking for a new and different twist on the coming of age story, read this now!”


What would you do in their situation?

“Small Fish Big Fish meticulously, deliberately, and powerfully describes the chain of events that the decisions and actions of both the protagonist and the antagonist—whether made for the right reasons or wrong—have on themselves, on their neighbors, friends, and those they love The reader is brought along the journey, and left to confront the gut-wrenching question—what would I do, given their situation? 

Kayne Milholme

A Quiz for you. Do you Recognize these Superstars of the Sixties?

The coming of age book, Small Fish Big Fish, is filled with 1960’s references: icons, music, and much loved superstars of the small and big screen. See how many you recognize in this montage.

montage of famous people in the 1960's UK and USA
Test your knowledge – who do you recognize? You can find all the answers here.

About the Author: PJ McDermott

PJ McDermott

PJ McDermott lived in Ferguslie Park, the setting for his debut book for teens and young adults, Small Fish Big Fish, until he was fifteen.

At twenty-one he went back to study full-time at Langside College, and from there to Glasgow University, graduating Bachelor of Science.

A regular on the Scottish Folk Club circuit, PJ played guitar and sang with his friends and cousins for pocket money. He lived in Paisley until, at the age of twenty-six, the author met and married Sue, who convinced him to return with her to Australia, a move he has never regretted. 

PJ lives with his wife, Sue, on the Surf Coast of Australia. They have two beautiful daughters, and three seriously cheeky grandchildren.

Small Fish Big Fish: a coming of age thriller book


A suspenseful and thought-provoking story that echoes the uncertainties and hopes of young people everywhere.

Check out the bookstore for more books by PJ McDermott

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