Blade: Playing Dead by Tim Bowler

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Blade: Playing Dead by Tim Bowler

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Category: Teens
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Jill Murphy
Reviewed by Jill Murphy
Summary: A short, sharp thriller with a cliffhanger ending. Cliffhangers usually irritate Bookbag, but in this case it works exceedingly well. Pacy and tense and frighteningly credible, this is good stuff.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 160 Date: May 2008
Publisher: Oxford University Press
ISBN: 019275484X

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Blade is under the radar. A "problem" child, he's been fending for himself since he was eleven. He's about as skilled in feral life as it's possible to be. He can pick pockets, he can find empty houses in which to stay, he can sense trouble at more paces than most. But Blade's most terrifying ability is in wielding knife. Hence his nickname. Even Blade is afraid of his own skill and he avoids knives when he can.

But even someone as self sufficient as Blade runs into trouble. And trouble this time begins with Trixi and her gang who catch him pickpocketing on their turf and beat him up. He's rescued by a kind old lady and her dog, taken back to a bungalow and offered food, clothing and money. But something's up; Blade's sixth sense is on red alert, and when violent men break into the old lady's house, he leaves her to fend for herself and escapes. It doesn't do any good - things only unravel further...

Ooh. This short, sharp thriller held my attention utterly. I read it in one sitting - although 150 pages of large print isn't that long a sitting. It's a colloquial and conversation narrative too, as Blade talks to an invisible companion, Bigeyes throughout the story. This device not only impels the narrative but hauls the reader into a familiarity with the central character, someone whose lifestyle is completely unknown to most children. You can empathise with Blade, although you can also feel his hostility and unpredictability. It's quite uncomfortable, feeling as though you are inside such a different skin, but it's also addictive. It extends understanding too.

This is the first in a series of books about Blade and several hints are dropped about his past, with revelations clearly to come. And there's a cliffhanger ending of the type I usually dislike, but this time it felt right. This is an interlude in Blade's life and it does complete itself, but it's just the first piece in the overall jigsaw. I shall follow further adventures with interest.

It's simply written, but with great attention to detail and palpable tension. You can feel the interesting plotting. It also offers a perspective on teen knife crime, which is something with which I think teen fiction is right to engage. It's better to test thoughts, feelings and values vicariously sometimes - and this issue is both contemporary and vital. Blade will appeal to everyone - it's short, colloquial and unpretentious enough for reluctant readers, but it also offers sophisticated thoughts and themes for those who like to delve more deeply.


My thanks to the nice people at OUP for sending the book.

Teacher's Dead and The Knife That Killed Me are more in depth explorations of teen knife crime.

Booklists.jpg Blade: Playing Dead by Tim Bowler is in the Bookbag's Easter Eggs.

Booklists.jpg Blade: Playing Dead by Tim Bowler is in the Top Ten Books To Drag The Kids Away From Computer Games For Ten Minutes At Least.

Bookinterviews.jpg Tim Bowler was kind enough to be interviewed by Bookbag.

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Buy Blade: Playing Dead by Tim Bowler at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Blade: Playing Dead by Tim Bowler at Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
Buy Blade: Playing Dead by Tim Bowler at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Blade: Playing Dead by Tim Bowler at


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