Children's Literature - Amalia Selle
From the beginning of this rather disturbing tale, the reader is not quite sure what is going on. The book is told from the perspective of a homeless boy with formidable skills of observation and the ability to fly under the radar. His emotional scarring and avoidance leads to questions never being quite answered. Blade, as he calls himself privately, is robbed of both his clothes and wallets he has stolen. An old woman calling herself Mary kindly takes him home and gives him clothes. Then men break into her home, and Blade hears the sounds of shots as he runs away. Holed up in one of his secret "snugs" that night, Blade finds one of the men has followed him. Although terrified over his near escape, Blade's guilt over Mary's death leads him back to the scene of the crime. Entangled in a web of various groups who seem to want him dead, Blade finds his skills tested to the utmost as he struggles to save a young girl Becky and her daughter Jaz. The unusual narrative style, with Blade speaking directly to the reader as if he or she is another character, makes Blade seem even more mentally disturbed. We learn surprisingly little of Blade's background despite his character being fairly well developed. The other main characters within the story, Becky and Jaz, remain undeveloped partially because Blade associates them with a deceased Becky from his former life. Paced well, the book provides an exciting read but disappointing ending. The nontraditional and ill-resolved plot is reminiscent of Robert Cormier's works. Readers of works such as The Chocolate War or I Am the Cheese, may also enjoy Bowler's work. Reviewer: Amalia Selle
Bowler delivers an intense, gripping novel that introduces Blade, a 14-year-old British boy with a mysterious past, who is living on the streets. After Blade suffers a beating by a local gang, an offer of help from a Good Samaritan goes awry and he finds himself on the run from a group of mysterious armed men. Along the way, he ends up protecting a toddler named Jaz and the girl's teen mother, Becky (she, in turn, inspires memories of Blade's long-dead love). There's little joy in Blade's world: characters steal, cheat, abuse drugs and kill, and to Blade, little of this bleakness is out of the ordinary (the first chapter reveals that he's lived this way since at least the age of seven). Bowler (Frozen Fire) imbues Blade with a voice that throws around slang ("porker," "gobbo," "Bigeyes") without needing to stop to explain it, and his reader-directed narration ("I don't trust you one little bit. Why should I?") carries the novel, even as the plot frustratingly ends with a cliffhanger. Readers who like their thrillers brutally realistic will find much to enjoy. Ages 14-up. (May)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
VOYA - Sarah Flowers
Blade is a fourteen-year-old homeless youth with a past that he mostly keeps hidden. He is very familiar with his unnamed British city and manages to survive by stealing wallets and living in people's homes while they are away. But one day things start to go wrong. First he is ambushed and beaten by a group of teen girls who leave him naked. An old woman named Mary gives him some clothes, but then two violent men show up at the door and they seem to want Blade. He is soon on the run, along with sixteen-year-old Becky and three-year-old Jaz. Blade is forced to use all his cunning to escape and to try to keep Becky and Jaz safe. The book is told in the first person, with the reader addressed directly as "Bigeyes," which is somewhat disconcerting at times. Blade reveals only small bits of information about his past, the other characters are not fully developed, and the ending is abrupt and open-ended, no doubt because it is the first book in an intended series. Still Blade has an engaging voice, the pace is break-neck, and young teens will be eager to know what is going to happen next. Reviewer: Sarah Flowers
School Library Journal
Gr 9 Up—From the beginning of this novel, fear and suspense are palpable as 14-year-old Blade is chased and savagely beaten by a gang of ruthless teenage girls. He is a gritty, British street kid constantly on the run for his life, but readers don't find out why until the end. He has amazingly keen instincts and startling skill with a switchblade, and he knows how to seem invisible, to go unnoticed and stay alive. Blade watches silently from the shadows to learn whether homeowners are in or not, and then uses unoccupied houses as snugs, safe havens where he sleeps, eats, and reads. Books are Blade's one solace, and his love of books softens the character of this streetwise thief. This is a solid choice for reluctant readers who are willing to accept the British slang, which is easy enough to interpret in context. "Quite a few nebs here too but they're all muffins" translates to, there's lots of people out in the neighborhood, but they're harmless. Bowler's use of short, clipped sentences creates a breathless tone that keeps readers on edge and turning pages at breakneck speed as Blade eludes murderers, drug users, and thugs.—Patricia N. McClune, Conestoga Valley High School, Lancaster, PA
Fourteen-year-old Blade (aka Slicky) is a smart homeless kid who gets caught in many wrong places at a lot of wrong times. He's been on the run from the police since he was seven, sneaking into houses and stealing people's wallets to survive. After an attack from a girl gang, he both witnesses and is accused of multiple murders. On the run from both the girl gang and the boys who murdered their leader, he joins up with Becky, a 16-year-old mother who is trying to get away from the gang. Although he has always operated alone, Blade decides to let Becky and her daughter accompany him as he attempts to bring justice to the murderers. The action is fast-paced, but the book is thin on character development and the ending lacks resolution, perhaps because it is the first book in a series. Much about Blade's present but little about his past is revealed, which may entice readers to pick up the sequel if they don't put this book down in frustration. (Fiction. YA)