Sophie McKenzie is one of the best known names in the UK Young Adult/Teen Literature circles. Author of the bestselling Girl, Missing series, she deftly casts her talents towards action, thriller & romance with apparent ease. Which is why it’s shocking to admit that Split Second (currently September’s Book of the Month at Waterstones) is the FIRST of her novels I have ever actually read! Suffice it to say though; it will most certainly not be the last…
Split Second is set in London, in the not too distant future. A sociological nightmare of a world, where poverty runs at an all time high, unemployment is uncontrollable, & the Government are about as corrupt & useless as they come. In this pressure cooker of anger & injustice, a terrorist attack strikes a market in Canal Street. A horrific bomb was planted by an extreme right wing organisation known as the League of Iron, a group dedicated to the abolition of non-white citizens in Britain, & caught in the blast was Charlie’s Mum, leaving the teenage girl orphaned, angry & confused. Also left in a coma from the blast was Nat’s older brother Lucas, but Nat is sure his brother was there working with the racist terrorist group themselves, & he’s determined to understand what caused his brother to take up such extreme beliefs. All Charlie wants is pure, simple revenge. But when they both team up & meet a man named Taylor, who seems to know more about the League of Iron & Lucas’ involvement in the Canal Street Bombing, the whole world of right & wrong are called into question, as Charlie & Nat discover that the political system in England is so fractured, there’s no way of telling who’s in it for themselves.
Opening with a terrorist bomb blast, Split Second hits the ground running, & it pretty much only slows down for a period during the middle of the book, before roaring, full throttle through the ending. Our main protagonists have a fantastic story arc of wide eyed naive youngsters to embittered freedom fighters, & the strong romantic bond that forms between them never feels forced or unnecessary, as I am known to loathe in YA books. Charlie is a strong, sour lead, & I loved her rude, stand-offish nature, creating a sense of a girl who really has lost everything, & now views the world through a bitter gaze tinged with a lust for revenge. Her driven nature makes her chapters really fly forward, & her slowly softening nature makes her character development very warm & realistic. Nat didn’t grip me from the off in the same way, but as his curiosity gets the better of him, some of the revelations he uncovers make for some of the books best cliffhanging chapters. The support characters are good fun too, particularly Jas, Nat’s twin sister, who’s cool, relaxed enthusiasm made her a welcome change of pace from the blurring action scenes. Taylor’s gruff military background may be a familiar character type, but it fits his role in the story perfectly, & his punctuated moments of humanity help flesh him out from the usual ex-army stereotype.
The plot is a chilling social dystopia, involving riots & racially motivated attacks which for me personally, rang eerily similar to some of the recent events in the last few years in the UK. Sophie McKenzie has her finger on the pulse of a future that is all too plausible, one where the recession never lifts, & government cuts are forcing unemployment levels sky high. More terrifying than Zombies or Nuclear Warfare, this is a world brought down by its own greed, & one there are seeds of all around us. Split Second manages to have a social & political voice, without being too slow or philosophical, but still have a strong moral message to put across to the reader. It reminded me a lot of the British Dystopian in Alan Moore’s V for Vendetta graphic novel. Before reading this novel, I already knew Sophie had a great reputation for non-stop action, & the final third of Split Second is a testament to her skill for pulse-pounding, gripping sequences. It just does not let up, & I found myself devouring it in little under an hour, unable to tear myself away from the page.
This book is the great start to a new series from the bestselling author, & it made me determined to start reading her backlist. With an exclusive edition as the Children’s Book of the Month in Waterstones stores right now, it’s worth getting stuck in!
‘Till Next Time!