Author: Melvin Burgess
Series: No, standalone
UK Publisher: Penguin Books
UK Release date: September 2011
Genre: Contemporary YA
Three teenagers growing up in North England each have their problems; family neglect, abuse, school troubles, and bullying. But to everyone else they are troublemakers, causing all the problems around them. When you hear their stories, what will you think?
Review: When I picked up this book I hadn't read any reviews for it and honestly didn't realise what a little gem I was holding in my hands. In Kill All Enemies Melvin Burgess has created the most realistic characters I've ever read about. The story follows four characters with each of their narratives and stories tying into the overall plot. Billie, Rob and Chris all end up in the Pupil Referral Unit, because no-one else wants them and school can't handle them, and it is here that they all cross paths together and work with Hannah, a social worker with a big heart.
The kids' struggles with problems such as parents' abandoning them, being bullied for being different, not getting on in school, and living in care, were told with surprising honesty and insight. So much so that you would think they were real, living, breathing people. To read how badly they were treated by the people that should be protecting them was also heartbreaking, and I completely sympathised with Hannah. Each of the narrative voices perfectly captures their most private and hidden thoughts, their northern roots, as well as an individual sense of personality. Although most people would judge them to be odd, a menace or doomed to fail, I really liked them all. The integrity of these characters is undoubtedly down to Burgess' writing skill, as well as the background research and interviews he conducted with real kids for a Channel 4 project.
The plot line also had me hooked - one moment my heart was in my throat with fear and anticipation, and the next I was laughing at the characters' internal monologue and little jokes. Although I could see where the plot was going to end, the events that happened throughout still kept me guessing and wondering how on earth the kids were going to survive another day.
Kill All Enemies is a must-read book for 2011 that will send you on an emotional rollercoaster deep through the working class lives of northern England.