The Bombs That Brought Us Together by Brian Conaghan
|The Bombs That Brought Us Together by Brian Conaghan|
|Reviewer: Jill Murphy|
|Summary: A fabulous and original story that gets to the heart of what it is to be a child in a war zone. Humanity and humour thread through the challenging storyline, making it a triumph of a read. We loved it.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 368||Date: April 2016|
|External links: Author's website|
Charlie Law is fourteen. He has always lived in Little Town and he has seen its descent into a difficult place to be. There's no drinking. No littering. No complaining. No being out after dark. Medicine is hard to get, which is a problem when your mum, like Charlie's mum, has trouble breathing. But even breathing is less important than keeping out of the way of the Rascals, the Regime's enforcers. And Charlie is a sensible boy. He has the rules of Little Town down pat and he never, never breaks them.
And then, one day, Pav arrives. Pav is a refugee from neighbouring Old Country. And Old Country is an even bigger problem for Little Town than the Rascals. Old Country sees Little Town as its rightful territory and it wants control of it back. It threatens Little Town with its soldiers and its bombs. Pav is painfully skinny and unkempt and he doesn't speak Little Town's language - lingo - well. But he and Charlie hit it off straight away. The anly problem is that other Little Towners resent Old Country refugees like Pav and his family and being friends with Pav means Charlie starts to break a few rules.
Then the bombs come. And the rules go completely out of the window...
... oh! I was really happy to see another Brian Conaghan story arrive. I loved When Mr Dog Bites and have been wondering what he would do next. And it's utterly different. But equally remarkable.
The story could be taking place in any current or historical conflict zone. It could be Northern Ireland during the Troubles. It could be Gaza or the West Bank. It could be cities in Syria or Iraq as they change hands between combatants. Or it could be set in any isolationist state, North Korea for example. Some readers may think of a particular instance but most will just accept Little Town and Old Country as representatives of all of them. The point is to understand how it is to live in a repressed state under external threat. And how it is to live in the middle of conflict. And how repression and conflict give rise to organised crime and how organised criminals blight lives as much as war does. How, as a young person, do you navigate your situation? Can you still have a childhood?
Charlie is a fabulous central character. He's sensible and honest and kindly and courageous and, well, confused a lot of the time. But you watch him in his sterling efforts to do the right thing and you root for him with all your heart. Because it's not easy to avoid getting caught up in trouble. If you have no food, why shouldn't you steal some? If soldiers beat you up, why shouldn't you join a resistance, even if the resistance is corrupted itself? And if people beat up your friend, should you really pretend it didn't happen?
Weighty themes indeed. But The Bombs That Brought Us Together isn't at all depressing or heavy to read. Humanity and humour thread through the challenging storyline from the first page to the very last. Charlie's crush on the gorgeous Erin F is the same crush boys in altogether happier places to live have for their own gorgeous girls and his attempts to attract her are hilariously inept. Pav's linguistic bungles made me laugh as did the way the two boys ended most conversations with a brotherly fook off. They do that outside of conflict zones, too!
It's a triumph of a read. And an original one, too. We loved it.
If The Bombs That Brought Us Together appeals, you might also enjoy How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff which also deals with a war breaking out around young people. There's also After Tomorrow by Gillian Cross, a brilliant role-reversal story in which a young British boy finds himself and unwanted and resented refugee in France.
You can read more book reviews or buy The Bombs That Brought Us Together by Brian Conaghan at Amazon.com.
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