on 25 October 2013
"Kill All Enemies" is the second Melvin Burgess book that I have read and, much like the first, I was not in any way disappointed.
The story line follows three very different characters. We follow the lives of: Billie; the aggressive teenager attempting to regain control of herself after being subjected to neglect from her alcoholic mother for over ten years, Rob; the boy that gets constantly bullied at school, just for the way he is, yet cannot get enough courage to tell his mother that his step-dad not only bullies him but also abuses him, Chris; the ambitious entrepreneur that is reluctant to actually do any work in life, yet still believes himself to be the next Lord Alan Sugar and Hannah; the social worker that cannot help but get attached to the children that she helps.
But when their lives collide, the reader begins to question which story is the lie? Are these three mischievous no-hopers; or are they secretly battling for their lives. Bullying, abuse and prostitution are all present within this story; however, do the characters even know what's happening to them; or are they victims of blind acceptance of the fact of what their lives have become.
Within this book we begin to question all of the bullies that we have ever experienced; all of the children being bullied in the playground; and all of the people, dirty and asleep on a park bench. What secrets are behind their situation? How did they become what they are now? Burgess forces us to look deeper into the lives of people that we turn our noses up at, or just dismiss at sight; are these things that these people do actually cries for help?
Using real stories and real knowledge, with a fictional twist, Burgess has created an incredible book that asks the reader to re-evaluate first impressions and makes us realise that we are witnesses to many misconceptions of life.
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14-year-old Billie's violent tendencies have resulted in her bouncing between school and the Pupil Referral Unit (also known as the Brandt). Warned by her care worker Hannah that she risks being sent to a young offender's unit, Billie tries to take control of her life but her estranged relationship with her mother (a recovering alcoholic) threatens to send her spinning out of control.
The last thing she needs is for fellow-pupil Rob to publicly humiliate her. She doesn't realise that Rob has problems of his own after his mum walks out on his violent step-father, leaving Rob to protect his younger brother from his rages. All he has to hold onto is a Metallica tee-shirt that his mum bought him and which he wears all the time to the mockery of his classmates.
Rob in turn doesn't need the smart-mouth antics of Chris, who's opted for a campaign of passive resistance at school and hasn't done any homework in years. Smart and articulate, he finds schoolwork difficult and just wants to leave so he can concentrate on his Ebay business. But when a teacher fabricates a complaint against him, he too finds himself in the Brandt and subject to his parents' campaign to make him focus on his schoolwork again.
But their individual problems help Billie, Rob and Chris to come together and maybe they can find something in common to help them turn their lives around ...
Melvin Burges's YA novel is a strong contemporary tale of teens whose behaviour would normally make society write them off. By looking at the reasons for their behaviour, he makes a strong case for re-evaluating so-called `problem teens'.
Burgess weaves together the three teens' stories really well done and I loved their strong first person narration. The book wears its politics on its sleeve and although he does show some weaknesses for his characters (particularly Billie and Chris), I wasn't completely convinced by all three being fundamentally decent and would have liked to see a little more ambiguity. There are some great lines and funny moments but also a lot of dark scenes. The violence suffered by Chris is unflinching as is a scene where Billie realises her boyfriend's friends want to rape her.
All in all, it's a strong book that does make you re-evaluate what makes a teen behave badly and as such is well worth a read.
on 2 November 2011
4¾ Out of 5
Everyone's given up on Billie. They think she's dangerous, a lost cause. But her case worker can see her potential.
Rob may get beaten up a lot, but he's strong. Strong enough to look after himself and his brother. But whenever he's around his stepfather, he feels worse than rubbish.
Chris couldn't care less about school. He's going to be an entrepreneur, and who needs GCSEs for that? He knows where he wants to go, but all his dad sees is a worthless layabout.
All three are linked together, but not entirely by choice. They're on their last chance: can they stay out of trouble long enough to prove themselves?
Kill All Enemies was an emotional rollercoaster, one that has left me reeling. I was hooked from the first page, never set free until the very last word. Some parts were very shocking and a little hard to read, but I loved every single moment. This was just an amazing, amazing read. Bravo to Melvin Burgess!
Billie Trevors got into a lot of fights. But I could tell she tried to do the right thing. She'd taken care of herself since she was a little kid, and by the age of ten she had so much responsibility... Everything that had happened to her... It... well. It broke my heart. I mean, Billie cared so much about everything, and tried so, so hard not to fight... And everyone had such low expectations of her: self-fulfilling prophecy anyone? She'd had such a hard life. Deep down, she was a real sweetie: broken, only acting hard to protect herself from being hurt again. She didn't think anyone could ever love her, but she couldn't stop herself from loving. I cried at one point. My heart ached, my eyes burned. It was so strong, what I felt for this girl. She really does break your heart in a way that makes you love her so, so much. She went through way too much. It wasn't fair and she didn't deserve it.
Rob had "wrong ears". But he was a strong, cheerful boy, who let himself get beat up to stay out of trouble. Which, in my opinion, takes a lot more strength than throwing a punch. He used Metallica to protect himself from his mum and stepdad's fighting, and he looked after his brother. He was adorably pleased (or well chuffed) to have Billie Trevors as a mate, `cause she was "hard". And he was funny, if kinda gross. I liked him. He was rather weird though... The fridge was his friend... and he had conversations with the skeleton on his Metallica t-shirt - called him "Skelly"... I have a feeling he's slightly mad. And some of his ideas were kinda odd. He was a great friend and a great brother. And he was just so, so optimistic. Just liked Billie, he did not deserve it - any of it. I loved him.
Chris Trent found school boring and pointless - he planned to be an entrepreneur. But he cared, just maybe not about school. And I just found Chris hilarious! His sense of humour was mildly twisted, but it really appealed to me. Plus... he saved snails. And he helped other people out - kinda. He got involved - for good reasons - when he maybe should have kept to himself. He was just too smart for his own good - a real wisecracking guy. Chris didn't play by the rules, but he had good human morals: he did not like bullies... and the whole snail-saving business. He was just really funny - especially when his mouth often got away with him. Oh, and he was mildly idiotic. In all the heartbreak, his funniness was a nice break.
Hannah: who was she? That was my question for ages. Billie mentioned her a lot, but not who she was, what she did. But once I got to know her, our fourth narrater, I realised that she really cared for Billie. It was obvious, and - like me - she hated everything Billie had gone through. She was really nice, sympathetic. But was maybe too close to Billie...
Just because I hate him so much: Philip, Rob's stepfather. I hated the guy, and I mean physically hated him. Like I've never, ever hated anyone before. In my head, I kept calling him very, very bad things that I never actually say. Urgh. (Hate him.)
The writing... wow. All four narrators sounded completely different - I would have been able to tell who was who, even if the chapters didn't have their names at the start. Sometimes four POVs get confusing, but in Kill All Enemies it completely worked. It let me get into all of their heads and see all their actions, their fears. And it was so personal - far more so than 3rd person or just one POV could have ever been. Plus, Burgess had the teen voice perfected. As for the plot; it was one of finding yourself, saving yourself. There were no epic battles, no foreshadowing prophecy. There were just the worst parts of life, the worst scenarios and attempting to overcome them. The plot was suspenseful and powerful: I was never bored, not even for a second. I was sucked in and I just couldn't get the book out of my head. I finished and it's still stuck in my head. And, yes, this book is honestly just that good.
Family bonds played a big part in this book. Or lack of, in some cases. You had heart-breaking realities, and love - so much love. Such as the bond between Rob and his mum: it was so special. He loved his mum so, so much - he'd do anything for her. I laughed, I cried, I smiled, I cringed. It was overwhelming. But isn't that what love and family are?
Kill All Enemies was so emotional, so powerful. I felt everything - hate, anger, pain, heartache, depression, let down. God, everything they went through, those kids... it broke my heart into pieces over and over and over. Beaten by stepdads, rejected by parents, belittled by parents... It was terrible. My heart's still aching. The things kids put up with... no wonder they acted out. People made them feel worthless. And you know what? None of them deserved it. People just don't see the whole story, some don't even try. They should, but they don't. They need to listen to the so-called trouble makers. There's always a reason. And there is no such thing as a lost cause. Kill All Enemies was raw, edgy, borderline inappropriate. It was horrible. It was beautiful. It was so powerful it left me breathless. I can't wait for my next Burgess book.
Key Quotes That I Can't Get Out Of My Head: "You'd be amazed at the things some of our kids have to put up with. People see them as troublemakers, but if you knew the trouble that's going on in their lives you wouldn't think that."
"These kids, to me, they're not troublemakers - they're heroes. Proper, real-life heroes."