An Act of Love by Alan Gibbons

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An Act of Love by Alan Gibbons

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Category: Teens
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Jill Murphy
Reviewed by Jill Murphy
Summary: Cracking contemporary thriller addressing today's key issues of multiculturalism, terrorism and community ties. Chris and Imran are childhood friends - but can that friendship survive jihad, domestic terrorism and an IED during a tour of Afghanistan?
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 224 Date: June 2011
Publisher: Orion
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 1444002287

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Chris and Imran were childhood friends. Blood brothers. They swore it when they played together in the wilderness behind the estate where they lived. But not any more. The riots put paid to that. 9/11 put paid to that. Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan put paid to that. Ten years on, Chris is a veteran of Afghanistan, waiting to receive a medal from the country for which he lost a leg. Imran is angry and rebellious, flirting with extremism. Terrorism has wrecked their friendship and sent them in different directions. And now, terrorism is threatening to end their very lives...

... because a bomb is about to go off.

I thought An Act of Love was great - utterly gripping, honest, and courageous. Gibbons isn't afraid to tackle any aspect of this highly-charged issue and it's clear how carefully researched the book is. The point of view shifts from chapter to chapter and so we see the conflicted motivations of the two central characters very clearly as they struggle to make sense of events they're involved in but can't control. We also sit very uncomfortably inside the heads of two extremists, one on each side of the divide - a white supremacist and an English jihadi convert a la shoe bomber Richard Reid. At no point does Gibbons blink, so neither do his readers.

We need more books like this. We need to understand how Chris's father slips so easily from being happy in a Muslim neighbourhood to getting as far away as possible and talking about just wars. We need to understand why Rafiq ends up throwing a bottle instead of making it to a Russell Group university. We need to understand how Imran's father feels impotent and isolated as he doggedly defends his adopted country. We need to understand how Chris came to join the army, despite his reservations, and the sense of comradeship he finds there. And above all, we need to understand how and why this childhood friendship has been stretched to breaking point.

We can do all these things when we read Act of Love. And we can enjoy a thoroughly gripping thriller to boot.


My thanks to the good people at Orion for sending the book. We also have a review of Gibbons' Street of Tall People.

Where I Belong by Gillian Cross also looks at a clash of cultures and how it can lead to violence, in a subtle and absorbing story of supermodels, kidnapping, and a young Somali girl sent to London to get an education and earn money for her family. Shadow Web by N M Browne is an interesting fantasy take on the real contemporary issues of war, terrorism and civil liberties. Older readers might appreciate Now You See Him by Eli Gottlieb.

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