Fallout by Sandra Glover

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Fallout by Sandra Glover

Category: Teens
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Linda Lawlor
Reviewed by Linda Lawlor
Summary: An impromptu teen party gets out of hand, and a dozen lives are changed forever.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 240 Date: January 2011
Publisher: Andersen Press
ISBN: 978-1842709948

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Hannah tries to object when her so-called friends throw an impromptu party at her house during her parents' absence, but she simply doesn't know how to stand up to them. At first things aren't too bad: her parents will go ballistic when they see the spilt beer on the carpets, but it's nothing that can't be fixed. Then drink and drugs begin to take their toll. A window is smashed during a fight, all manner of things are damaged beyond repair, and the house is burgled. And something terrible, something so bad she can't face it or admit it, happens to Hannah during that eventful night. And it will destroy lives in more than one family.

Fallout is not an easy book to read. The emotions are raw, the events harrowing at times, and although many of the people involved manage to get through it and carry on with their lives, that cannot be said of everyone. There is redemption, of a sort, but the harm done is irreversible and more widespread than any of the young people can imagine as they make their way to Hannah's house that night. Nonetheless, it is a gripping story, filled with tension and insight.

Rape isn't an easy thing to read or write about, and there is no doubt that the topic, not to mention the bleakness of some of the incidents recounted, mean this is a book for older, more mature young readers. It looks at both sides of the issue, considering what refusal and consent actually mean in this situation, and the difficulties of proof in a context which almost by its very nature has no witnesses. It is gritty but compelling, first because you want to discover who the accused boy is, and then because you want to know and understand why the stories told by the two young people differ so much. Hannah's reluctance to accept, even to herself, the enormity of what has happened is utterly convincing, and being admitted into the thoughts and feelings of several of the other teenagers who attend the party that night demonstrates perfectly the complexity of the matter. The voice of Hannah, and that of her friends, is absolutely authentic: Sandra Glover has been a teacher, and it shows in her awareness of how teenagers think and behave, and the things that preoccupy them.

Hannah herself is no innocent: we tend to see her first as a simple victim, very much as her parents do, but later in the book we discover that she has a more complicated and nuanced character than that. In fact, there are precious few innocents or heroes in this book. Everyone has a problem or a dark side, and the adults are no better at coping with the problems Hannah's party creates than their children. True, many of the characters we meet in these pages manage in the end to do the right thing, but this is not a children's book, and no one waves a magic wand to solve all the problems. Like it or not, things cannot, and do not, go back to the way they were before.

The events of the party themselves are enough to fill a book, but Sandra Glover skilfully takes us even further. What is almost more dismaying and thought-provoking than the events of the party is the harm caused by outsiders who feel they have the right to comment on the whole question in texts, emails and websites. Rumours are started, unfounded accusations abound, and violence is committed by people on the periphery of the whole event. What started as a horrible situation concerning a small group of youngsters quickly threatens to spiral out of control, as we are reminded of the awful power granted to people by new forms of communication.

It is tempting to suggest that every teen be made to read this, and maybe even discuss the issues it raises, but that's the kind of advice which would make any self-respecting young person run a mile. Still, you could just leave it lying around . . .

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

Further reading suggestion: Two other excellent books which present a young person struggling with events way beyond their control and understanding are Keren David's When I was Joe and Almost True.

Buy Fallout by Sandra Glover at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Fallout by Sandra Glover at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy Fallout by Sandra Glover at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Fallout by Sandra Glover at Amazon.com.


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