Ganglands: Brazil by Ross Kemp

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Ganglands: Brazil by Ross Kemp

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Category: Teens
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Sue Magee
Reviewed by Sue Magee
Summary: A fast-paced teen thriller about life in the favelas of Rio de Janiero. There's a good plot and some likeable characters - recommended.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Yes
Pages: 232 Date: August 2009
Publisher: Puffin
ISBN: 978-0141325897

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Luiz Alves and his sister Ana were adopted into a good home and escaped the favela which is now under the control of a vicious gang, the Comando Negro. Only a matter of days ago a young basketball star had been murdered on a bus for no better reason than that he had once made the killer look bad. Luiz had no intention of getting involved with the gang, or with another shadowy organisation, Trojan Industries, but events dictated otherwise.

One evening he was at home waiting for his sister to return and celebrate her birthday but it wasn't Ana who walked into the house but men he had never seen before. He has no choice but to go with them and when they show him Ana in a prison cell on a drugs charge he agrees to attempt to infiltrate the Comando Negro. Trojan Industries is a front for a group of men and women who are trying to stop the gangs and they train Luiz and set him on his way.

When I was a child 'gangs' were a friendly group of kids who hung around together. The most vicious thing that happened was the odd bit of scrumping for apples. The gangs which Trojan Industries are fighting are very different – they have all the latest weaponry, a grudge against society and a limitless supply of drugs. They control the favela and once in there Luiz is on his own.

It's a fast-paced, well-written story with as much tension as you could wish for. The plot is great, with real twists to keep you guessing as to what is going to happen next – and all of it was worryingly believable. Luiz helps tremendously in this – he's a likeable young man with a real respect for his adoptive parents and a love of his sister. It's Ana's safety and freedom which keeps him going - until he reaches the point where just trying to stay alive is what drives him on. I reached a point where the pages were turning on their own.

Ross Kemp might be better known as Grant Mitchell from East Enders but he's got a talent for telling a good story and points which he wants to make in a non-preachy way. Some of the situations are really only suitable for the older child – possibly the early teens as a minimum – and it's much more likely to appeal to boys than to girls – but Kemp's planned series of books on gangs should do well.

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to The Bookbag.

For more on gangs we can recommend Double Cross by Malory Blackman.

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