I have been wanting to read Fault Lines by Johnstone, about a volcano in Edinburgh for ages, but it’s a book that somehow keeps evading me. So when I was given the chance to read Johnstone’s newest book, Breakers, I jumped at it. Damn you Fault Lines, I will have a Johnstone reading credit to my name!
“A toxic family … a fight for survival…
Seventeen-year-old Tyler lives in one of Edinburgh’s most deprived areas. Coerced into robbing rich people’s homes by his bullying older siblings, he’s also trying to care for his little sister and his drug-addict mum.
On a job, his brother Barry stabs a homeowner and leaves her for dead, but that’s just the beginning of their nightmare, because the woman is the wife of Edinburgh’s biggest crime lord, Deke Holt.
With the police and the Holts closing in, and his shattered family in devastating danger, Tyler meets posh girl Flick in another stranger’s house, and he thinks she may just be his salvation … unless he drags her down too.”
Whilst Breakers didn’t take long to read, it packed a mighty punch. Johnstone certainly doesn’t hold back when describing life for Tyler, a boy from a bad family trying to keep everything together. He was living in a grotty high rise flat, in amongst a sordid, f*@ked up family who force him into breaking into houses to steal goods for drug money. The sad thing is, Tyler’s life is all too believable. I bet there are a few teachers who recognise Tyler’s sister Bean. A few police officers who know a Holt family, and more than a few social workers familiar with Tyler’s mother. Johnstone perfectly illustrated how the rich and the poor make uncomfortable neighbours and delivered a powerful insight into life today for those living in certain postcodes.
I approached this book thinking it was a Young Adult. I think I was wrong. Sure, Tyler is a teenager and there is no sex, but there is just about everything else: swearing, addiction, violence. I certainly wouldn’t want a young teen choosing this as their bedtime reading. Yet older teens would probably appreciate Tyler’s youth and relate to his earbuds. If not his musical choices. So parents proceed with caution.
My favourite part of the book was Tyler’s relationship with Flick. I thought it genius for Johnstone to focus on the hand holding and the heart beating as opposed to them jumping in to bed. In a world of grime, drugs and murder, the contrast in the simplistic beauty of their relationship was strong. It would have been so easy for the reader to hate ‘posh’ Flick. Yet Johnstone made her likeable, relate-able and I’m so pleased he pushed back on the bitchy, boarding school girl stereotype.
My thanks go to Orenda Books alongside Anne Cater for a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review. Breakers (published THIS month people!) was brutal, powerful and strong and I’m so pleased I’ve read it. Now to hunt down Fault Lines….
I’m joined on the Blog Tour today by Beverley Has Read. Check out what she made of Breakers here.