Genre: YA,Millitary Thriller.
This was quite a random choice for me but I wanted to see what Andy McNab might do with a Young Adult book and thought it might be a good taster for Andy's more involved adult books. This is actually a much denser book than it's length and basic premise initially suggest.
I think this book will be very successful with teen boys as I am sure many will be able to see themselves in Sean, a teen car thief, prized member of an East End Teen gang whose sole aim is to lift a nice motor, run it into the ground or strip it for parts. However this belies the real complexity of the book that makes it just as readable by an adult audience.
Sean's existence is very insular in fact, despite the freedom he thinks he has by baulks B against authority, freedom which of course is curtailed when sent to a Youth Offenders Centre. I found the judgement I had of Sean's delinquency was soon tempered by a pity for his plight.
He is wasted in the life he feels is his lot and his experiences in the centre were I feel slightly glossy and maybe McNab missed a trick in not making more of the stark choice that such incarceration might bring about, by either using it as a turning point or letting it define you forever. If the repetitive nature of days were more clearly defined, it might act as a cautionary tale to youngsters on the cusp of behaviours that they might not be able to pull back from.
He gets given a second chance when he is recruited to the army which provides the perfect way to show him that there is worth in standing up for each other and striving for more in life and the Millitary definitely brings out his better strengths and morality.
This is not an easy book and definitely not one for children, there is regular violence, quite a bleak representation of how youth in UK inner cities might be being dragged into adult violence through apathy and a lack of structure.
At first glance Sean's down trodden mother seems to be a cliché, serially abused by her partners and often deserted, no prospects of a boost in confidence from job or financial prospects . However many women in inner city estates live the exact same life. The fact that Sean wants to protect her ,leaves him with a dilemma, should he choose to better himself, he might be leaving her behind in a place where she is more vulnerable and actually cause her more suffering but by being drawn back into his old life would he be stifling own soul at the exact time he was finally reaching his potential and perhaps keep him locked into a cycle that would taint the next generation. It is an interesting and challenging plot.
The social commentary aspects of the plot could well have been developed into a strong narrative and this would have been a fine book, but McNab has cleverly woven in some very timely comment on domestic terrorism, Race and even Misogyny in the British Army into this story and it becomes a much more complicated beast and is all the better for it!
This may not have been my usual choice, but I am exceptionally glad I took a chance on it. Like any good book it left me thinking about it long after the last page was read.