The Last Free Cat by Jon Blake
|The Last Free Cat by Jon Blake|
|Reviewer: Jill Murphy|
|Summary: A very well-written and exceedingly satisfying chase novel set in an authoritarian Britain in the near future. Themes of corporate power, civil liberties, and personal responsibility lie under a tense and action-packed narrative. There's something for everyone here, including a love story.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 272||Date: May 2008|
|Publisher: Hodder Children's Books|
Jade lives in a recognisable but not particularly pleasant Britain of the near future. Huge corporations are running the show and the population lives in ignorance now the internet too has been largely taken over by big business. Only criminals and political extremists look at the freeweb now it's illegal. A purported cat flu epidemic has effectively privatised cats. Breeding is strictly controlled by the Viafara Corporation and cats cost upwards of two million euros - only the rich can afford them. Any cats not bred in this way are potential disease carriers and are put down.
So when Jade finds Feela in her garden and takes in the beautiful cat, she and her mother are taking a huge risk. Comprot troops soon raid the house, looking for the illegal animal, and Jade's mother's failing heart finally gives out. Left alone and determined to protect Feela, Jade has no choice but to go on the run, and no one to turn to except the school misfit Kris Delaney. And so they try to reach Ireland, where a recent revolution has overthrown the corporations, pursued by vicious government agents.
Jon Blake has painted an ominously credible future Britain in this very satisfying novel. It's familiar, and so its subtle differences don't need pages and pages of exposition, but they are sinister and very frightening subtle differences. It's a chilling picture of just how near authoritarianism stands and just how ignorant of the danger we are now, today, not how ignorant we might become. After all, if we can go to war and kill a million people on the outright lie about weapons of mass destruction, and if news reports can frenzy for days on one ill bird, how unlikely is it that cats could be privatised by a manufactured scare about cat flu? It's not a quantum leap in logic or possibility, is it?
The main narrative is the chase, as Jade and Kris flee the armed Comprot operatives, and it's as pacy and tense and action-packed as any adrenalin-junky reader could wish for. There are some heart-stopping moments and the two central characters are forced to show great courage. But they're also forced to reassess their thoughts, feelings and values - Jade must lose the scales on her eyes and face the truth about the society she lives in, while Kris must learn to accept that while you can distrust governments and corporations, life is very little without trusting relationships with fellow human beings.
Inevitably, thrown together as they are, the two mismatched teenagers find out they're a match after all. The romance is rather touching actually, and not in the least bit overdone or saccharine. Kris and Jade find love by sparring with one another and sharing danger, not by mooning and spooning. And it never gets in the way of the story. Both of them are fully-fleshed and interesting people, both with flaws and both with considerable depth of character. I was really rooting for them, and for Feela the cat too, of course.
I've read several very good chase novels for teenagers lately, but I think this one is my favourite. The writing is top notch and it has something for everyone. Take it as my tip for a major award.
My thanks to the nice people at Hodder for sending the book.
If they enjoyed The Last Free Cat, they might also like The Declaration by Gemma Malley which takes an equally chilling look at a future Britain.
The Last Free Cat by Jon Blake is in the Top Ten Love Stories For Teenagers.
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You can read more book reviews or buy The Last Free Cat by Jon Blake at Amazon.com.
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