Fifty Fifty is S L Powell's first novel and a very impressive debut it is - it's a thriller, probably targeted at age 12-16 but it is an equally engaging read for those of a "slightly" older age range including my own good self!
Told in the third-person, our story opens with thirteen year old Gil embarking on a typically teenage row with his parents involving the usual triggers - "your room is a tip", "I want a mobile phone", "I'm old enough to look after myself" etc etc... Gil has had enough, he's out-grown his once good friend Ben , his Mum seems to be in a dream world and his Dad is the scientist/drill master with no room for flexibility so it's hardly surprising that Gil gets side-tracked. Jude, the dynamic, magnetic animal-rights activist, the complete antithesis of Gil's Dad, is a Messiah-like figure who lifts Gil out of the doldrums and provides the excitement and spark which this bored teen craves.
What follows is an action-packed adventure during which Gil is tested to the limit. Bit by bit, the secret history of his family is revealed and he is forced to make extremely difficult decisions and obliged to grow up very quickly. The reader feels his anguish as he is faced with one moral dilemma after another - this really is edge of your seat writing as you just can't second-guess Gil's next move.
As well as a gripping personal read, Fifty Fifty would be an excellent group read or school text as it raises so many intriguing questions about the genetic research versus animal rights debate and it presents both sides of the argument in a very balanced way. However, don't expect a dull, patronising read as it works equally well as a fast paced,compelling thriller. Highly recommended for any young adult with an enquiring mind and perhaps also for we "oldies" who become so engrossed in our own little bubbles that we forget to ask the big questions.
PS - not a zombie/vampire in sight (not even a genetically modified one, hurrah!)