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Leah Jackson is miserable and in detention. This is particularly infuriating because the detention means she's likely to be late for her fame and fortune interview, one of the few chances kids at YOP schools have to make it into college and to get a life worth having. But Leah's worries are about to become much, much more immediate. Year 9 kids storm into the room. They're armed. And they're shooting. Leah escapes the melee by hauling herself up into the roofspace. But only just. Kids are dead. Teachers are dead. Everyone else is rounded up in the gym. Only Leah and Anton are free, but they are trapped above the ceiling tiles.

Siege by Sarah Mussi

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Category: Teens
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Jill Murphy
Reviewed by Jill Murphy
Summary: Tense, shocking and very affecting story of a school shooting and siege. Prepare yourself before reading. Fantastic stuff.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 320 Date: March 2013
Publisher: Hodder
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 1444914847

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Leah manages to get a message to the police with what's left of the charge on her mobile phone. But it's clear that help is not close at hand. Lock down is in effect and no-one is getting out. More to the point, help is not coming in. Leah and Anton will have to save themselves. As the situation deteriorates even further, Leah has not only to try to survive and to try to save the other pupils, but also to find out whether or not her brother Connor is one of the shooters. And what can she do if he is?

Siege is set a few years into the future and the school system has changed, in response to violent pupils and general civil unrest. Schools in problem areas are now high-security centres. The curriculum is barely an education and troublesome kids are simply sent away to a lifetime of voluntary labour. When a lock down is triggered, nobody gets in or out - by design. And so, this first-person narrative follows Leah as she tries to evade capture by the shooters, alert the authorities, find a way to free the hostages, and find out whether or not her brother is involved.

Leah is a wonderful character. She's brave and intelligent and resourceful. She's capable of independent thought, despite a limited vocabulary and inarticulacy. She utterly exemplifies the failings of the YOP system - how can a girl with such potential have such limited opportunity, you ask. This is a society where an impression of feral youth is used to manipulate public opinion to support government policies that favour the rich and powerful. Oh. A bit like the one we're in now, then.

But don't think this is some kind of hand-wringing book in which the perpetrators of violence are given a free pass. It's not. Leah has no time for the shooters. She's conflicted about her brother because she loves him, but she's under no illusions. She knows what a loser looks like and violence makes her sick. So Mussi is showing both sides of this argument. And she's not afraid to make it ugly.

It has a dystopian setting, but Siege is more about violence and our reactions to it - both personal and societal. It's also a warning about the path we find ourselves on. It's a fast-paced, tense and shocking read and it's very violent. But I found it truthful. And tremendously affecting. I'd like to see it talked about in classroom discussions up and down the country.

Recommended. Highly. But you will need a strong stomach.

More super-duper books looking at the ways in which casual violence demean us and the catastrophic consequences that are possible include Teacher's Dead by Benjamin Zephaniah, The Knife That Killed Me by Anthony McGowan and Dead Boy Talking by Linda Strachan.

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Buy Siege by Sarah Mussi at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Siege by Sarah Mussi at


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