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)
From the Back Cover
The gang is your family
Your girl says they're trouble
You carry a knife
But you'd never use it
They want you to kill
You want to protect your turf
Time's running out . . .
Make a choice
About the Author
John Lucas was born in East London. Turf is based on John's own experiences of growing up in Hackney - he has been a victim of and witness to multiple acts of street violence. His debut novel TURF is out in August 2012. His ebook short TROUBLE is a reimagining of the London riots through the eyes of characters from TURF.
You can follow him on Twitter on @wordoflucas