7 of 10 people found the following review helpful
A formidable moral dilemma,
This review is from: Boy A (Paperback)
This is not about the Jamie Bulgar case, though it has distinct and unmistakable echoes of that case that suggest it could not have been written without its real-life counterpart having taken place. It has almost the same scenario - two boys, both miserable, seemingly unloved, one under the influence of a brutal older brother, the other easily led, and a day when they bunk-off school (as usual) and come across a victim. Not a toddler in a shopping centre, but a nine year-old girl in a scrubby and oddly depopulated park. It does not go into detail about what was done to this victim, but a stanley knife was used, and penetration is suggested if not described.
Boy A is about what might have happened - not to the brutalised one, but to the easily-led, slightly inadequate one, on his release from prison. He finds a mentor in a social worker who helps him find lodgings with a motherly but busy working woman and a job with friendly workmates. Many things about Boy A in this new world are fake - his name and his background especially, but his memories and his feelings remain real, and someone on the internet is offering money for anyone who will disclose his whereabouts.
The book straddles a line between uneasy, documentary-feel thriller and a kind of coming of age for someone whose childhood, no less than that of his victim, has been stolen away. It is intelligently written and readable and raises most of the formidable moral dilemmas of the real case. If there is a facile feel to some of this writing, it is probably because the crime at its centre is passed over rather too quickly. Boy A in particular seems never to think about it and for me this meant that the heart of the novel was strangely empty.