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TURF [Paperback]

John Lucas
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
RRP: £6.99
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Book Description

6 Jun 2013

Jay is fifteen years old and a member of the Blake Street Boyz gang. With a knife in his pocket and his best friend Milk by his side, he spends his time fiercely defending their turf. He takes his lessons from the streets and thinks he knows everything about choices.

Choose the right gang, and they will protect you. Choose the right clothes, the right chat, the right snacks and you will be respected. But now he's coming of age and he's being given the chance to step up. He must stab and kill a member of a rival gang... and there are no choices left.

This is a story set against the backdrop of London's inner-city tower blocks, where killing can be easier than choosing a chocolate bar; where gang violence rules, and where loyalty can cost you your soul.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Corgi Childrens (6 Jun 2013)
  • Language: Unknown
  • ISBN-10: 0552566128
  • ISBN-13: 978-0552566124
  • Product Dimensions: 19.6 x 12.8 x 3.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 714,539 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description



Fifteen-year-old Jaylon is a member of the east London Blake Street Boyz gang. His every life choice is subject to its laws, right down to what chocolate bar he eats. To move up to the senior level, the Olders, he must stab someone from a rival gang. He's not keen, but it's not a choice "kill or die".

Turf strongly resembles last year's Pigeon English but with a slightly older cast, and instead of a mystical pigeon, a tramp called Leo who dispenses crazy wisdom. It might just be all the pills and weed, but soon Jaylon is talking to people who might not be there, having visions and being lectured by the hologram of Jesus that hangs on his aunt's wall. The "turf" he fights over takes on a spiritual dimension.

Lucas cleverly contrasts the banality of school life with the brutal code of the streets as Jaylon ricochets between them towards a nail-biting finale. An exhilarating, tragic tale and a terrific debut.

" (Suzi Feay Financial Times)

"Lucas is good at capturing the claustrophobic world that Jay is ensnared in, where his possibilities and aspirations are crushed by byzantine street rules that even dictate what chocolate bar he buys. Jay makes for a lively, intelligent, wryly funny narrator. The fact he can see the hopelessness of his situation makes his tragic trajectory all the more poignant." (Siobhan Murphy Metro)


Published a year after the London riots, John Lucas's debut takes the estates of Hackney as its contentious turf. A fight to the death between two pit bulls introduces a dog-eat-dog underworld of violence, drugs and gangs. But despite its easily cliched setting, Lucas goes far beyond hoodie stereotypes in this sensitive and unusual teenage novel.

As his 16th birthday approaches, narrator Jay is offered the chance to graduate to the Olders of the Blake Street Boyz. But when initiation means killing a classmate, Jay begins to question the rules. In an effort to reform him, Jay has been sent to live with his ardent Christian aunt; her flat is a "Welcome Break for souls" crammed with lurid iconography, including a hologram of Jesus that taunts Jay with life or death.

As Jay gets swept up in violent spirals, he no longer knows if the crazy mystical figures he meets are real or merely holograms of his fevered imagination. A powerful and unsettling novel, Turf's biggest success is its protagonist, a character as misunderstood, complex and terrifying as the world he must flee.

" (Anna Trench Observer)

"Turf is not an easy read and it doesn't offer any easy answers. Because there aren't any. But it what does do, is get to the heart of the matter. And that's something worthwhile. Don't you think? Published on the anniversary of the 2011 riots, this is a harrowing but illuminating read" (http://www.thebookbag.co.uk/reviews/index.php?title=Turf_by_John_Lucas Bookbag)

"This compelling story sheds light on the lives of a group of disaffected young people, for whom life is cheap and belonging to a gang is everything. It is about loyalty, love, making choices and living with the consequences. An astounding and thought-provoking novel, which contains violence, sex and strong language, it is violent, shocking and heartbreaking." (Booktrust)

Book Description

A boy caught up in an urban gang is forced to kill. Now he must face the consequences.

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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
4.2 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars It's tough, gritty but also heart-warming? 5 July 2012
Format:Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
John Lucas's novel TURF is a gritty, down to earth story set on a Hackney (London) high-rise council estate. Dealing with a fifteen year old youngster called Jaylon, who is anxious to prove himself as an Oldster in the Blake Street Boyz gang, the story describes a number of events which could just have easily happened on any urban estate where gangs hang out trying to prove they are above the law. Unlike the core of the gang, Jay has feelings and religion plays an important part in shaping his destiny, despite the tragic events which unfold before him.
The story is believable and well told. The housing estates of the 50s/60s gave way to the tower blocks of the 60s/70s, ushering in the skinhead gangs who wandered the estates with menace but also commanding a sense of respect. As the councils fought to re-house more people, so more tower blocks were built and these ultimate led to the hoodie gangs who drifted in and out of drink and drugs and menaced anyone who appeared as a threat to them and this is evident in the book. John Lucas is right when he says Jaylon has a choice - prove himself to the gang or get out! Choosing the latter and moving to a nice little residential seaside town seems idyllic BUT now that the council have sold off so much housing, they are using privately-owned housing in residential areas like the seaside town to re-house tenants. Consequently it is possible to come full circle fifty years later and consideration should be given as to whether having opted for the fate which befell Jaylon is the better choice.
I recommend this book to anyone who wants to open their mind to what is a way of life in our time. The book would certainly make an excellent Channel 4 movie as they are not afraid to portray the gritty reality of life, with its twists and turns forced upon an innocent finding their way in life - perfectly described in the book, and how it can directly or indirectly affects us...
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Turf 21 Sep 2012
By Sarah (Feeling Fictional) TOP 500 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
Format:Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Turf is a gritty and raw debut from British author John Lucas that offers a no holds barred insight into today's youth gang culture. Set on an estate of run down council tower blocks in London it is easy to imagine teens today who are caught in the same trap as fifteen year old Jaylon.

Jay never really made the choice to join the Blake Street Boyz, it was just something that all the kids on his estate aspired to. Those who aren't in the gang desperately want to be but those who are in soon find that there is no backing out. Every decision you make is monitored by the gang and if you make the slightest mistake then you risk losing your spot in the pecking order. Lines are drawn between the territory owned by the Boyz and the territory belonging to the Yoot (a gang from the neighbouring estate). Everything from where you buy your food, to which benches you can sit on and even the desks you choose at school comes down to which gang you are a member of. Kids who have known each other their entire school lives are enemies just because of the estate they live on.

Now Jay is about to turn 16 it is time for him to face his initiation to move from the Youngers to become a fully fledged member of the Older Boyz. In order to pass the test he must kill a member of the Yoot, a boy from his class at school whose main crime is to live in the wrong area. Jay doesn't want to become a murderer but he doesn't really have much of an option. He lives in a world where it is kill or be killed, even his fellow gang members won't hesitate to take him out if he fails and when they threaten the lives of his family and girlfriend his decision becomes even harder.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Gritty, turf war teen novel 14 July 2014
Gang warfare and what it can mean. Jaylon is a member of the Boyz, but in order to join the Olders he has to prove himself. His aunt the "Deadly Nightshade" had taken him in hand, and together with his church going girlfriend they set about trying to bring God into his life, until he's convinced he's seeing ghosts and hearing voices. He's come to a crossroads - but which path will he take. Well written for a first novel but could have done without some of the religious sections, which I skipped. Gritty, teenage novel
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4.0 out of 5 stars insightful 20 Dec 2013
By Cambridge Ian VINE VOICE
Format:Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
One of my favourite ever books was "clockers" by Richard Price, which portrays life in a US housing block. I thought this might make a similar impression on me - and it did.

Turf is bleak and believable about life choices on a council estate, do you run with a gang or escape?

Very interesting overall and one that I will be encouraging my 14 yo son to read.

Excellent debut novel.

I would also suggest anyone who enjoyed this look out for John King's novels that followed the football factory triology.
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