Turf by John Lucas

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Turf by John Lucas

Category: Teens
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Jill Murphy
Reviewed by Jill Murphy
Summary: Dark and desperately tense book about gangs in London, published on the anniversary of the 2011 riots. Charting the disintegration of a young boy faced with impossible choices, this is a harrowing but illuminating read.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 368 Date: August 2012
Publisher: Bodley Head
ISBN: 0370332342

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Fifteen-year-old Jay is a member of the Blake Street Boyz gang. He and his best friend Milk spend their time selling drugs, marking their turf and dreaming about graduating from the gang's Youngers to its Olders. And in a world where something as insignificant as the choice of a chocolate bar can mean the difference between respect and contempt, it's not surprising that Jay treads very carefully. Every choice, no matter how small, is a statement. So when he is finally given the chance of joining the Olders, he can't afford to mess it up. But the task is murder. And suddenly there are no choices left...

Turf is a very dark book. It's desperately sad and desperately inevitable. But despite the inevitability, it also surprised me. I expected the plot to follow a relatively - as yet - innocent boy as he tried to escape the violent task he had been set by his gang leader. I don't want to give too much away, but it didn't really go down like that at all. Well, it did, but also it didn't. Lucas doesn't pull any punches with his situations or his characters so you don't get to feel any easy sympathy. Neither do you get to do any easy tub thumping about personal responsibility and the youth of today. And that's all I'm going to say about the events, except that I cried at the end. Properly cried. Messily cried.

Jay stumbles through the pages in confusion. Sometimes he's stoned. Sometimes he's coked up. Sometimes he's panicking. Sometimes he's dealing with extreme emotions or the aftermath of violence. Often he's confused. He sees things and it takes both him and the reader some time to disentangle what is real from what is not. Who is Leo? A real live tramp? A drug-induced hallucination? A ghost? The old lady in the alley? The rasta with a bin bag laced through his dreads?

And as everything starts to disintegrate, the gang on which Jaylon has relied for status, for meaning, for everything really, moves away from him, and then there really is nothing left.

Turf is not an easy read and it doesn't offer any easy answers. Because there aren't any. But it what does do, is get to the heart of the matter. And that's something worthwhile. Don't you think? Published on the anniversary of the 2011 riots, this is a harrowing but illuminating read.

There is a rich vein of teen, young adult and crossover fiction dealing with gangs and violence. Some of our favourites are In the Bag by Jim Carrington and Dead Boy Talking by Linda Strachan. Pigeon English by Stephen Kelman.treads a similar path and also has elements of magic realism.

Buy Turf by John Lucas at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Turf by John Lucas at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy Turf by John Lucas at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Turf by John Lucas at Amazon.com.


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