I live in Nottingham, and am familiar with many of the settings throughout the novel - so I started reading the Killing Jar with great interest. Admittedly, I read it out of necessity, but I'm so glad this book is part of my course, because otherwise I may never have come across it.
The Killing Jar is set in the 80s, in the Broxtowe estate, where drugs and violence are the norm. In the midst of this we have Kerrie-Ann, our protagonist, who we meet at the age of 5. We see her befriend her eccentric elderly neighbor to escape her junkie mother, her unstable home life, and the many 'uncles who her mother's bed. For Kerrie-Ann, childhood innocence is lost - she deals drugs at the age of 10, and has an abortion at 13. So much of what happens shocks, but the matter of fact way in which much of it is written is more inherently shocking and challenging. Nicola Monaghan's intricate knowledge of the area and lifestyle is evident, and gives Kerrie-Ann as a character so much depth and surprisingly likability that as a reader you are rooting for her and cannot stop reading until you know her fate.
What struck me is the way the author doesn't give the reader what they want, she gives them what they need: the truth. This is found especially in her burning and turbulent relationship with Mark, where we see the best and worst of humanity from both of them - a telling premise for the presentation of love throughout the novel.
In short, you should read this book. Not because of its gruesome details or the sex or the drugs or the crime or even the beautiful imagery. But because it is a novel about people, doing the best they can.