Wednesday, 19 August 2009

Grass by Cathy MacPhail

From Amazon: Leo knows the value of never grassing and that you never grass on your friends. Everybody, too, knows the gang leaders in town. And you don't grass on them. And then Leo is unlucky enough to witness the murder of one gang leader by another, a man called Armour. It will take bravery, luck and sheer daring to extricate himself from Armour's deadly web.

Grass is a quick read with a surprisingly mature theme. It covers murder, gangs and violence, and isn't what I expected from a book set in the UK. I know gang warfare is present everywhere, but it seems to be more prevalent in other countries. To think that this also goes on here in England is shocking, and not something I'd given much thought to before.

By accidentally witnessing a murder, Leo is tangled up in a life he doesn't want. He's bribed, blackmailed, and scared into doing things - and for what? So an adult won't end his life sixty years too early? It's an unpleasant scenario, but is one that instantly grips the reader, and leaves you wondering just how Leo will get out of this situation.

Leo's a typical teenage boy, and is an easy character to relate to. How many of us have seen things we shouldn't? It's just something that happens, though normally it doesn't lead to death threats and murders. Leo was my favourite character, and I thought the way he wanted to keep his fear to himself to protect his family was admirable. Armour, the gang leader, had the perfect mix of personalities: one minute he could be nice, the next he was manipulating Leo like it was nothing. He was a character I found hard to hate, and I think that's because of the glimpses into his family life.

Cathy MacPhail knows how to leave you questioning everything you know about right and wrong, and succeeded in presenting an ambiguous look at gangs and their motivation. I really liked her hard-hitting, gritty realism, as well as her knack for turning a simple concept into a much more complicated story of trust and bravery. I'll definitely be checking out more of her books!


So Many Books, So Little Time said...

This sounds like a book that might be quite hard to read but very worth it. Great review as always!

Shalonda said...

Ooh that sounds so good! Very deep!

Thao said...

I never read anything about gang (except for Perfect Chemistry I think) so this one sounds very nice to me.

Amy said...

This sounds interesting. Great review!