Bullet Boys by Ally Kennen

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Bullet Boys by Ally Kennen

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Category: Teens
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Jill Murphy
Reviewed by Jill Murphy
Summary: Another fantastic thriller from Ally Kennen. Great characterisation and a challenging vocabulary sits, as ever, alongside tense and twisting plotting. She really does write some of the best intelligent page-turners for teens.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 304 Date: January 2012
Publisher: Marion Lloyd
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 1407129902

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Alex is a crack shot. His gamekeeper father trained him well.
Levi would rather pull a girl than a trigger.
Max is a bomb about to go off.

These are three unlikely friends. Alex doesn't really want to do his A levels. He'd rather join his father in estate management. But his father feels he needs to connect with the world more, especially since his mother died, and so Alex goes along with his wishes with as glad a heart as he can manage. Max doesn't have much choice either. Expelled from his posh private school and a severe disappointment to his military family, Hammerton is his last chance to salvage some chance of a future. Levi provides the link between these two wildly different boys. He's an easygoing, happy-go-lucky lad whose dreams are much more about being a lover than a fighter.

But when they make an alarming discovery at the army training ground on the moor, each boy reacts in a different, but equally dangerous, way...

Ally Kennen writes a brilliant page-turning thriller but she never fails to include challenges outside the twists of her plots. In Bullet Boys she alternates the point of view between Alex and Max. Alex, the reserved, calm boy with whom it's easy to identify, gets third person treatment. But Max, the unstable, self-destructive one, talks directly to the reader in the first person. I thought this was really interesting. It's difficult to like Max but Kennen does enable us to get right into his head and it really is quite a sad place to be, so it's equally difficult to judge him too harshly.

The book is full of clever little contrasts like this: Baz is as volatile as Max, but he is protected and insulated by his fellow soldiers, while Max is punished and isolated by his family, whose efforts to control a wayward son only seem to make things worse. Levi's mother is as fussy as Max's and nags him just as much, but Levi sees it as a manifestation of love, while Max sees it as controlling and manipulative. Whose situation is better? Whose point of view is more accurate? Kennen does love to pose these sorts of questions and it's something that lifts her books above many of the other teen thrillers around.

Bullet Boys is tense and exciting with a twisty-turny plot and characters you can believe in. It's also clever and provoking. What more could you want?

Gamekeeping also features in the fabulous near-future thriller The Witness by James Jauncey. I think Sara's Face by Melvin Burgess, told in a true-crime, reportage style, might also appeal.

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Buy Bullet Boys by Ally Kennen at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Bullet Boys by Ally Kennen at Amazon.co.uk Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
Buy Bullet Boys by Ally Kennen at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Bullet Boys by Ally Kennen at Amazon.com.

Booklists.jpg Bullet Boys by Ally Kennen is in the Guardian Children's Fiction Prize 2012.


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