Tag Archives: Young Adult Fiction

Siege by Sarah Mussi

Siege: Sarah Mussi (Hodder Children's Books, 2013)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.

This Is What Happy Looks Like by Jennifer E Smith

This Is What Happy Looks Like: Jennifer E Smith (Headline, 2013)

This Is What Happy Looks Like: Jennifer E Smith (Headline, 2013)

This is far removed from my usual book preference, being a contemporary teenage romance with no supernatural elements at all. I ought to dislike it intently, it starts with a random mistyping of an e-mail address connecting two people, who happen to both be seventeen, and happen to get along wonderfully, and one of them happens to be a famous film star who is practically a Mary Sue in talent and good looks. Except… I loved it!

My inner sixteen year old loved the budding romance and the ups and downs in it. My adult self cringed in the first few chapters when an accident meant a change in top (with name label) leading to a mistaken identity… Oh no, I thought, this is going to go on far too long when in reality as soon as the characters speak to each other they’d realise their mistake. What a cliché… But the characters did speak to each other and instantly realise the mistake – joy! I do like a plot that follows some logic, and this one does.

The story also manages to avoid what could be a trite family reunion by… Well, that might give too much away. It also avoids an overly cliché ending. Even if teenage contemporary romance isn’t your thing, this is compelling enough to grab your attention and keep it (I read it in one sitting), it’s not cliché-filled and although at the start the description of Graham makes him seem one-dimensional, the characters are all well-rounded. Thoroughly enjoyable.

Disclaimer: We were sent a copy of This is What Happy Looks Like by Headline for review thanks to a nomination from Jax at Making It Up. No other financial reward was given and the opinions are my own. I was not asked to write this post.