We See Everything by William Sutcliffe

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We See Everything by William Sutcliffe

Category: Teens
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Jill Murphy
Reviewed by Jill Murphy
Summary: In an alternate near-future London, Lex lives in The Strip, cut off from the rest of the country. Alan is a drone operator watching him. Chilling, but beautifully told, this novel is both gripping and important.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 272 Date: September 2017
Publisher: Bloomsbury
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 1408890194

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Lex lives in what used to be London. Today, it is a closed-off, bombed-out area known as The Strip. Nobody comes in and nobody can go out. Drones are a constant presence overhead, food is short and life is hard. But there's a girl he likes and she can make him forget almost anything. Alan spends all his time watching The Strip. His talent as a gamer got him the job of drone pilot. He hasn't bombed anyone yet but he's hyped up to do it, whatever his mother thinks. It's fighting terrorism, after all. Alan's observation target is a high-profile target - a man high up in the resistance organisation known as The Corps. Alan calls him #K622. But Lex calls him Dad.

Lex and Alan will never meet. But their lives will collide in devastating ways...

Wow. We See Everything was a powerful and chilling read. What Sutcliffe shows so well is the way in which living in conflict zones with poor or no governance affects every aspect of daily life. Resistance movements often overlap with organised crime - as we see when Lex's status as a Corps messenger allows him the privilege to supplant someone else's street corner when selling contraband cigarettes. Freedom fighter or terrorist? Does it matter when you are a child and you are living with a father whose stress from the threat of assassination by drone makes him an unpredictable and short-fused presence in your life? Lex is doing what we all try to do - make the best of things.

And what about the other side? What happens to a boy who is living in a society defined by the belief its violent response to dissent is patriotic and just? Alan's toxic masculinity - what is it? A fault in Alan? Or a fault in Alan's society? Or has gaming inured him to real-life violence? I didn't like Alan but I felt for him. Plagued by feelings of inadequacy, his job in the drone program gave him self worth for fleeting moments but made him behave in awful ways towards others just like those awful MRA activists today with their Pepe the Frog avatars. Jingoism does not create healthy young men.

The most obvious comparison is that Sutcliffe's Strip is a cipher for the Gaza Strip and the control exerted over it by the Israeli authorities. I believe the author visited the OPT while researching this book. And it will give pause for thought on that thorny topic for all readers, whatever their preconceptions. But it also makes me think about what it must have been like living in Belfast during the Troubles. Or about the consequences of Western interventions in the MENA region, which have left vast swathes of territory effectively ungoverned and therefore created similar dangerous environments for young people to grow up in. Surely we can find better solutions?

We See Everything is as beautifully written as it is chilling. The main characters are all searching for meaning and love and beauty in the most terrible of circumstances. And, amid the horror and the tragedy, they do manage to find them, if only for brief whiles. I think we have to cling to that, don't you?

Recommended for all thoughtful, serious readers.

The Bombs That Brought Us Together by Brian Conaghan is another powerful story about what it means to be a young person in a war zone.

Buy We See Everything by William Sutcliffe at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy We See Everything by William Sutcliffe at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy We See Everything by William Sutcliffe at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy We See Everything by William Sutcliffe at Amazon.com.


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