Raining Fire by Alan Gibbons

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Raining Fire by Alan Gibbons

Category: Teens
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Nigethan Sathiyalingam
Reviewed by Nigethan Sathiyalingam
Summary: Raining Fire may start of slow, but it picks up in the second half to grow into a tense and thrilling story about gang warfare and gun crime.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 269 Date: March 2013
Publisher: Indigo
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-1780620275

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Gangs have always dominated the Green, an inner-city estate with an ominous undercurrent of violence. Growing up in the Green, Ethan has never really known anything different; however, he has always harboured a hope to escape from the place, and his position on a professional football training programme might just give him the chance to do so. Unfortunately, the Green won't let him go so easily. Drawn into a violent feud between two major gangs, Ethan will have no choice but to play his part, if he doesn't want a gun put to the heads of everyone he cares about.

Alan Gibbons' portrayal of a setting where young people are forced to resign themselves to a bleak future of impoverishment, joblessness and crime is bleak and powerful. There is a pervasive sense of inevitable violence around every corner, and despite their best efforts, it is difficult to see a way out for Ethan and his family. Once Ethan and his brother, Alex, become embroiled in a battle between two gangs, with equally ruthless leaders who are prepared to do anything to take each other down, the stakes only escalate. Alex finds himself facing a lengthy prison sentence through the manipulations of one of the gangs, and Ethan has no choice but to get involved with the opposing group in order to stand a chance to free his brother.

While the dialogue is sharp and the characters feel realistic, there isn't much character development and I found it difficult to connect with them. Even Ethan, the first-person protagonist, feels distant and is difficult to empathise with for much of the first half of the story. The book is split into two distinct sections. While the first part is effective in introducing the characters and the setting, it often feels slow and directionless, and struggles to make the characters compelling. Elements of the plot introduced in the first half, such as Ethan's football programme and the return of his dad, end up having little relevance to the main storyline and ultimately feel like unwanted distractions.

The main storyline only really kicks off in the second half of the book, and it instantly feels as if a switch has been thrown, as everything becomes much more tense, focused and compelling. I suddenly found myself turning the pages faster, while worrying for certain characters and feeling fearful of others. It is here that Alan Gibbons' simple but sharp and effective writing style really ratchets up the tension, and the constant, ominous presence of the gun comes to the fore.

While many aspects of the book feel pretty orthodox and unoriginal, I thought the ending was well done, with an unexpected twist that resonates with the overarching theme and symbolism of the story. Overall, Raining Fire is an enjoyable read, which is redeemed by an improved second half that accelerates towards a thrilling conclusion.

Thank you for sending a copy to The Bookbag.

If you enjoyed Raining Fire, another contemporary thriller from Alan Gibbons: An Act of Love, is well worth checking out. For another highly tense novel with a pervasive, inevitable sense of violence, The Knife That Killed Me by Anthony McGowan is an intelligent novel that comes highly recommended by The Bookbag.

Buy Raining Fire by Alan Gibbons at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Raining Fire by Alan Gibbons at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy Raining Fire by Alan Gibbons at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Raining Fire by Alan Gibbons at Amazon.com.


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