Synopsis from Goodreads.
If I stood you in front of a man, pressed a gun into your palm and told you to squeeze the trigger, would you do it?No, sir, no way!What if I then told you we-d gone back in time and his name was Adolf Hitler?
Would you do it then?Zimbabwe, 1980s.
The war is over, independence has been won and Robert Mugabe has come to power offering hope, land and freedom to black Africans.
It is the end of the Old Way and the start of a promising new era.
For Robert Jacklin, it’s all new: new continent, new country, new school.
And very quickly he learns that for some of his classmates, the sound of guns is still loud, and their battles rage on . . . white boys who want their old country back, not this new black African government.
Boys like Ivan. Clever, cunning Ivan .
For him, there is still one last battle to fight, and he’s taking it right to the very top
“I nodded subserviently while inside I was chewing over his words: tipped the balance of power. It seemed a strange expression to me because it gave me an image of a seesaw, and when one end was up the other was always down. It was never actually balanced.”
Initial Final Page Thoughts.
What… wait.. was that…? No.. it couldn’t be. Could that be an epilogue that didn’t make me superfluously angry?! I believe it was. Gosh.
And also… sadness.
Let’s hear it for the boys. History. Unflinching. Raw. Nelson. Snakes in the grass. Honesty. Brothers. Thought-provoking. Difficult questions. The writing.
Oh won’t somebody think of the
children parents? Seriously… I know in YA Land parents are normally dead/divorced/ awol for unexplained reason and I’ve come to accept that. But this was ridiculous. These boys were just running around like the lost boys at the end!
And speaking of the ending, it was.. um.. interesting but a little unconvincing and about as subtle as a ton of bricks.
Also, I wish we had spent more time in 1985. It was nice to see Robert starting off in the boarding school but I think it went on for a bit too long and, I know Mr Wallace had to set the scene because some people (like moi) may not know about this era at all, but I would like to have had more time looking at Robert when he was older because I think his character really started to develop and, of course, break my heart and make me scowl and sigh in exasperation and write ‘ROBERT NOOOO! Come on!’ and ‘Robert don’t do that. Why are you doing that?!’ and ‘PLEASE JUST STOP EVERYTHING THAT YOU’RE DOING’ in my little notebook.
Alright Robert. I would call you Bobby or Jacko because that’s what your… friends call you. But, to be honest, I don’t know if I want to be your friend because it seems you’re not a very good one. I won’t go into the details because I know it’s a sore subject and it just makes me upset to think about it because I thought we were going to be close and then you ruined it all (oh and also spoilers).
But you know what you did or what you didn’t do.
So we’ll leave it at that.
The journey that the reader goes on with Robert is fascinating and often difficult to read. It was hard to see Robert, the nervous and shy boy in the first chapter, be seduced by Ivan’s manipulative ideas and turn his back on everything he knew was right because he was afraid to standout and have Ivan’s bullying turn on him.(There is a moment where Robert says that he “hid by joining in” because it was easier to go along with Ivan’s “games” than it was to call him out.)
Even though I didn’t necessarily like him, I felt like I knew him. And even though I didn’t agree with the choices he made, I understood why he made them. Robert was a fascinating character and it was impossible not to sympathise with him, in spite of everything. I thought it was really effective seeing the events occur from his perspective as it introduced a lot of the thought-provoking questions that made this book so compelling.
But yes… Robert was definitely an interesting character and I’m still not 100% sure I had him completely figured out. One minute I wanted to hug him and tell him all was forgiven. And then the next minute I wanted to throttle him or at least frown until he understood that I was angry with him.
This book will stay with me for a long time and definitely made me think.
That’s right… think.
*looks suspiciously at the book*
I’m missing out a whole lot of these headings because I really don’t want to ruin anything for those interested in reading it.
Not so much a theme tune but more a topical tune.
Gimme a sec.
And also an excuse to use this song in one of my reviews.
I have so much love for this man and this song and this video is just fantastic.
It’s weird to give this book such a high rating because it didn’t make me cry so much as it made me uneasy and on edge and I honestly don’t think making his audience sad was Mr Wallace’s intention and he didn’t make me… wait… ok, I’m gonna change things around before I give myself a nosebleed.
Gimme a sec.
10/10. OK, that’s better.
As I was saying, this book had me on edge. About everything. And it distressed me. I finished this book yesterday and I’m still thinking about certain scenes and fretting about them.
I’ve been dithering to and fro writing this review and I’m still not 100% sure that what I’m saying is going to make sense.
I don’t really want to go into the parts that I found most distressing because, obviously, they are more effective when you don’t know they are coming. Wallace doesn’t keep any of his characters safe, something tragic happens to pretty much every single one of them, but it never feels forced or as if Wallace has sat at his desk and thought ‘Damn, that character is in danger of having a happy ending. Quick think of something hideous to happen to them.’
And the fact that these issues were never milked or dwelled on for too long made them all the more upsetting. The conclusion of one of the events that I’m still thinking about was given approximately three lines… yet it still chilled me to the bone.
People who are looking for a compelling historical YA novel that deals with difficult subjects in an honest and insightful manner.