Siege: Sarah Mussi (Hodder Children’s Books, 2013)
Siege is set in a near-future (dystopian) Britain (England) which is scarily very believable. Unlike The Hunger Games or Maggot Moon, this is too close to home and packs a huge emotional punch because of it.
I think Siege will get compared with The Hunger Games for several reasons. The teenage female protagonist wanting to protect her family; the poverty of the people involved; the fight for survival; potential government corruption; children being killed…
This is a YA title that I’d recommend parents and teachers from all walks of life read. I wouldn’t recommend it to children under teenage, but that probably depends on the child. A very mature thirteen and up would be best in my opinion.
Warning: I can’t review this without spoilers. If you prefer not to be spoilered, stop reading now.
Leah Jackson is an average (poor) sixteen year old attending her local Academy School. Since all the cuts, the only non-paying schools are Academies that dump you straight into Volunteer Work Programmes on graduation (daily travel and canteen vouchers supplied, for The Greater Good.) Are you scared yet?
Schooling isn’t free; healthcare isn’t free; the population isn’t free. The government has cut everything and the poor are just expected to be violent wasters, with little opportunity to escape the life they’ve been born into. Since the Riots, the Academies have been fitted with Lock Down, an automatic security system that keeps the kids inside the school with no escape.
On this day, Friday 18 September, a group of kids have started a siege within the school. The school goes into Lock Down, there’s no escape. Due to being late that day, Leah is in detention so thinks the shots she first hears are some kind of fireworks at assembly in the gym. Then the gang start to round-up the rest of the school, and the killings begin.
Told in first person, we find out the setting in snippets throughout the book, as we follow Leah desperately trying to survive; and desperately worrying that her younger brother is one of the shooters. Siege is not a comfortable read, although it took me a few chapters before I was emotionally involved. The first shootings (POW POW POW) didn’t have the deep impact they should have but the narrative grabbed me more the more realistic the setting became to me.
As the politics and action notch up during the last chapters, Siege finishes with a stark list of the casualties of the day. It’s not what you want to read; and with that ending the book knocks you out for the count.
It has its imperfections (Leah’s slang slips and don’t think too hard about the details) but with so much in the news about changes to schooling, and cuts to services, and blaming poverty for violence, Siege is a scary prediction of things that too easily could be.
Source: Copy offered as giveaway by the lovely Karen Lawler @karenlawler on Twitter.