Bought for my 12 year old son who is an avid reader and was attending a workshop with Anthony McGowan. H e loved it. Wants the sequel which is yet to be written (but apparently will be). Fast easy read.
Nick and his brother, Kenny, live in a harsh, northern village where they have to deal with bullies, a father who is barely holding his life together after his wife deserted them and the horrible killing and torture of innocent animals. Real characters who touch your heart and make you care. Gritty but heartwarming.
I bought 'Brock' for nephew (he's a McGowan fan) and when it arrived, it looked so very pleasing with its attractive cover and illustrated page design, I couldn't resist a sneaky peek. Well, the book might appear pretty, but it certainly doesn't gloss over its subject matter: the story of Nicky's fight to save local badgers from destruction deals with big themes. Injustice and violence, love and understanding; it's rare a book is so sparely written, yet covers such broad emotional terrain.
It's published under a 'Teen' label, but it's a story that will touch readers of all ages, and would make a great gift.
Anthony McGowan has boiled down this incredible book to just 129 pages. ‘Brock’ is a masterclass of storytelling. Without a wasted phrase, this book packs in fear, empathy, peer intimidation, consequences, responsibilities, and so much more.
Unflinching and honest, there is darkness in this story, yes, but it has a baseline that feels very authentic of childhood emotions. It has resonance and truth. There’s a brighter counterbalance brought in by brotherliness, tenderness and, ultimately, hope.
With brief chapters, an engaging plot and relatable, well-formed characters, this book will appeal to any young teen, but is particularly suitable for struggling or reluctant readers. It’s suitable also for anyone, of any age, who appreciates well-crafted and succinct storytelling. I’ve been bowled over by it. Don’t be fooled by its size. This is McGowan Super Concentrate. A little goes a long, long way.
I loved this book! Anthony McGowan has written the most perfect badger book imaginable, and it's dyslexia friendly. It had been compared to Kes, which alarmed me somewhat, although I did realise it was meant as a compliment.
For a dyslexia friendly story, this is a long book. Sometimes I hesitate to recommend the rather short books to normal readers, simply because the book will be over almost as soon as you've begun. This being 130pages - and so very good - I think everyone might want to read it.
Knowing from the blurb that animals would be harmed, I calmed down as soon as I met the old badger in the first chapter. He knew things weren't going to end well, but he had a job to do and he was courageous. It helped knowing him.
The book also has issues, which is another thing I'm not dead keen on, but this is handled so well that it just makes you happy and satisfied. Nicky (I'm not sure of his age. I'm guessing 13?) has to look out for his brother Kenny who is 'simple,' as their dad is in a bad state after their mum left.
Then there are the local teen thugs, with their dogs. And there are the badgers. You can imagine.
But good can come from bad, and it does. I almost cried.
Tense, sweet and brief. It reminded me of one of Roald Dahl's short stories for older children, 'The Swan' (from 'Henry Sugar') when a boy is tied to a train track and then bullied into wearing a swan's wings. It's the same realistic, everyday story that could affect a young person, with well-drawn characters and threatening bullies.
Our well-drawn heroes here are Nicky and Kenny. Teenage Nicky is drawn by his 'simple' (his words) younger brother into a meeting with local bullies, out with their dogs to bait badgers. Kenny soon sees that it isn't a game, as dogs are sent into the sett.
The baiting scene is quite intense and well conveyed. The story afterwards switches completely to Nicky and Kenny back at home with a secret to care for... Their single dad, on bail, unemployed and despondent features in the second half, and the half-forgotten bullies don't fade away. It ends with excitement, a lovely epilogue and threads tied together.
I've loved McGowan's longer novels for young people in the past (Henry Tumour showed he was willing to cover quite dark topics with humour). This short Barrington Stokes entry is a departure, theme-wise, but is a cracking little tale that suits the short-chapter format, is well-written and characterised, and will keep interest.
This would be great as a class read as well as one for individuals.
McGowan is so good at writing that you have to use his surname to refer to him. I didn't buy Brock from Amazon, I bought it from a little shop near my house. But I will review it here anyway. Take that, authority!
Brock is a beautiful story. Written (and I mean this) as only McGowan can with realism muddied into heartfelt sentiment it is a story which resonates. It's violent, eloquent and deeply personal. It must be read.