Boy 23 – Jim Carrington

Now I do like a good dystopia but I seem to have avoided some of the big name teen/young adult worlds (Hunger Games, Divergent and Maze Runner for example). In fact I reckon that the only actual teen dystopias I have read would be Matt Haig’s Echo Boy and Francesca Haig’s Fire Sermon so it was fun to read something in the genre not written by an author with the surname ‘Haig’! If fun is the right word for a dystopia…

9781408822777Boy 23 is Jim Carrington’s fourth YA novel and seems to be a slight departure (in a post-apocalyptic direction) from the first three. They were all stories of fairly normal, if troubled, teens set in a recognisable Britain coping with issues which many young people can identify with – anger, bullying, boredom and relationships – so this book has quite a few differences. For a start the setting is somewhere in a future Germany and Jesper, the main character, is fairly obviously not normal. As the book opens he is abandoned in a forest, which would be traumatic enough for any boy of his age, but Jepser has previously known nowhere other than ‘My Place’ – a room where he has shelter, warmth, regular food and some kind of computer access but has no physical contact with any other person. In fact his only human contact at all is with The Voice who has mentored his education and then dumped him with the instruction to head north-west to escape those who would want to kill him.

This book is fast-paced and gripping – I read its 350 or so pages in just over a day – with plenty of suspense. The three main characters – Jesper, Carina and Blake (the Voice) – take it in turns to narrate events and there is enough difference in their tone to make each of them stand out. Jesper sometimes sounds rather childish with his talk of squawks and hoppers (birds and rabbits) but this must just reflect his emotional immaturity. The forces who are trying to harm Jesper, as well as the sinister organisation running this society, are proper ‘baddies’ – the obvious German influence and the name New Dawn add chilling overtones of fascism both neo- and old school.

There is a fairly big plot twist towards the end of the novel which I certainly didn’t expect and an ending which does not rule out a sequel. Although I’m not sure if the story isn’t better left as it is – after all, there are enough dystopian series out there for everyone, surely…



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