This Is Not Forgiveness by Celia Rees

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This Is Not Forgiveness by Celia Rees

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Category: Teens
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Jill Murphy
Reviewed by Jill Murphy
Summary: A dark and unsettling novel featuring three characters interconnected by more than just a love triangle, although it's that too. Tense and frightening, but beautiful at times, this thriller is something we didn't expect from Celia Rees. But we loved it.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 288 Date: February 2012
Publisher: Bloomsbury
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 1408817691

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Longlisted for the CILIP Carnegie Medal 2013

Jamie falls hook, line and sinker for Caro the moment he runs into her at the Rendez. He knows she's bad news. Everyone knows she's bad news. But he just can't help himself. Caro is strong, vital, secretive and beautiful and Jamie is a moth to her flame. He suspects there's someone else in her life but it doesn't make a difference. No matter what everyone else thinks, what his sister Martha says, Caro is not like any other girl Jamie knows. She's worth any risk, despite the disappearances, despite the odd tattoos and scars from self-harm. And there's also Rob. Back from Afghanistan with a shattered leg, Jamie's older brother is descending into a world of drink and drugs. He just can't fit back into small town life. Jamie wants to help him, but Rob is too unpredictable and unstable to reach.

Over the course of one summer, these three will come together in a way that will shatter lives forever...

Oh! This isn't what I've come to expect from Celia Rees! She writes historical books - either straight adventures such as Sovay or set in the present day with a supernatural and historical twist, such as Ghost Chamber. She's turning into the genre-busting Nicola Morgan. And, as Patrick Ness declares on the press sheet for the book, she has ventured into new territory and returned with explosives. This is a fantastic novel - dark and ominous but at the same time intimate and quite beautiful.

We know that things don't end well right from the first chapter, we just don't know exactly how they'll end and what series of events and connections will direct the journey taken by each of the three narrators. It's the story of a love triangle, but it's also much more than that. It's about politics and war. About family relationships. About jealousy and revenge. About PTSD. About being satisfied with what you have and about the desire for what you can't have.

The primary narrator is Jamie, the good but naive soul, but his words are interspersed with passages from Caro and Rob, the troubled souls. You can find sympathy and pity for all three and the claustrophobia of the various unhealthy connections between them really draws you in. And while Rees covers all sorts of controversial topics within the book - politics, direct action, war - she leaves the protagonists to present their own, different, views, without authorial comment. She has confidence in her readers: they'll make up their own minds.

Beautifully-written, unsettling and absorbing, This Is Not Forgiveness is highly recommended by Bookbag. More like this please, Celia!

I think you'd also like Naked by Kevin Brooks, which also has a love triangle involving two boys and one girl and also touches on terrorism. You could also look at Sara's Face by Melvin Burgess which is told in a true-crime, reportage style and takes a chilling look at our obsessions with fame and image.

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Buy This Is Not Forgiveness by Celia Rees at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy This Is Not Forgiveness by Celia Rees at


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