An up-put-downable teen love story set in a scarily believable post-Brexit Britain.
After withdrawing from the EU, Britain (minus Scotland) is ruled by The Party whose flagship Immigration and Residency Act means anyone who is not British Born is subject to arrest and immediate deportation. A general election is imminent: all the polls are predicting The Party will be defeated and the opposition has promised to overturn the British Born policy. Romanian-born teen, Zara, hopes she has only a few more weeks of hiding before she can return to her life – and before she can go to the Police and share the information she has about her close friend Sophie’s death. It’s, therefore, not good timing when a chance encounter on the tube brings her face-to-face with Sophie’s brother, Ash. Zara’s curious how he’s coping with his sister’s death and reassures herself he doesn’t need to know she’s an illegal or about her friendship with Sophie. But, of course, things never work out as planned in the unpredictable world of politics and love.
This is a powerful book in terms of the issues it deals with, the gripping plot, and the technically impressive writing. Every detail is extraordinarily clever and every word carefully chosen with some envy-provoking descriptions. The chapters oscillate been Zara and Ash’s viewpoints and, unusually for a teen / YA story, it’s written in third person, present tense. This use of a third person viewpoint, however, effectively avoids the confusion often associated with dual narratives while the present tense gives us real immediacy. In fact, it’s so perfect, I’m surprised more authors don’t adopt this approach.
Our two main characters are both sympathetic and entirely believable and it’s refreshing to meet two teens who don’t have attitudes and are genuinely interested in their studies. I particularly liked the way that the letters Ash writes (and then burns) to his dead sister reveal a lot about his character while simultaneously pushing the plot forward. Similarly, Ash’s ability to turn any time into the precise number of seconds both illustrates his intelligence while also effectively ramping up the tension in the plot.
The plot is totally gripping if, at times, a little uncomfortably close to where our post-Brexit Britain could go. It’s not difficult to guess the outcome of the crucial election but the other plot twists and turns lack predictability and the climax had me shouting at the pages, not to mention calling out to Ash’s pet dog, Lulu.
If you enjoyed this and are looking for other teen reads with a political twist, you might want to try another post-Brexit story in Fiona Shaw’s Outwalkers. Alternatively, why not try another teen love story against a political backdrop in the powerful and addictive Riot by Sarah Mussi.
Publication Date: August 2020
Author: Tracey Mathias