If you’re looking for an adrenaline rush, this is the book for you. 4/5 stars.
The blurb: What happens when society wants you banged up in prison for a crime your parents committed?
That’s the situation in which Ant finds herself – together with her little brother Mattie and their foster-parents, she’s locked up in a new kind of family prison. None of the inmates are themselves criminals, but wider society wants them to do time for the unpunished ‘heritage’ crimes of their parents.
Tensions are bubbling inside the London prison network Ant and Mattie call home – and when things finally erupt, they realize they’ve got one chance to break out. Everyone wants to see them punished for the sins of their mum and dad, but it’s time for Ant to show the world that they’re not to blame.
In the interests of full disclosure, I must start this post by declaring my positive bias towards the author of Blame. I imagine readers based in the UK will know who Simon Mayo is. For those of you who don’t, he’s a radio presenter who has broadcast on the BBC practically every day since the late 1980s. I’m a big fan to the film review show he hosts with the film critic Mark Kermode every Friday on 5 Live (HTJI). This meant that before starting Blame I was both predisposed to like the book, while at the same time worried I wouldn’t. The excellent news is that I had nothing to fear because Blame is excellent YA fiction and every bit as nail-biting as promised.
Set in a near future, Blame is founded on a simple and terrifyingly believable premise: backed by a resentful populace, the UK government begins to prosecute and imprison people for crimes their parents committed but weren’t punished for. If those prosecuted have children under the age of 18, these children will be imprisoned with them. This idea of “heritage crime” places the characters in a sympathetic situation: they are imprisoned and subject to hate and harassment, but innocent of any wrongdoing.
And those characters are all wonderful. The main character, Ant, is particularly likeable as a brave, angry and reckless teen doing her best to keep her adorable little brother safe.
The story is also far more action-packed than I had expected. There were two extended sections in the prison which had me on the edge of my seat. I read the book in two sittings because I was unwilling to put it down.
There were many details I liked, including the way that German has become the language of freedom and the resistance because the Germans are the only nation who have managed to learn anything from early twentieth-century history. Given recent events in world politics, I feel this is all becoming scarily prescient.
The only reason I haven’t given Blame 5 stars was because the finale felt slightly anti-climactic. Perhaps this was inevitable after the author had such great success in ratcheting up the tension in the rest of the book.
Overall: intriguing, relevant ideas coupled with fantastic action sequences. Highly recommended for fans of YA dystopian fiction or anyone looking to read something outside their comfort zone.
Claire Huston / Art and Soul