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Book Review: Blame (Simon Mayo)

* I have been given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review *

Publisher: Penguin Random House

Pages: 472

Release Date: July 7th 2016

Summary (from Goodreads):

What happens when society wants you banged up in prison for a crime your parents committed?

That’s the situation in which Ant finds herself – together with her little brother Mattie and their foster-parents, she’s locked up in a new kind of family prison. None of the inmates are themselves criminals, but wider society wants them to do time for the unpunished ‘heritage’ crimes of their parents.

Tensions are bubbling inside the London prison network Ant and Mattie call home – and when things finally erupt, they realize they’ve got one chance to break out. Everyone wants to see them punished for the sins of their mum and dad, but it’s time for Ant to show the world that they’re not to blame.

Review:

I love a good bit of dystopian fiction, and this one was a gem.

Blame is set in a world not too different from our own, where you can be imprisoned for crimes your parents committed – heritage crime. Being a child doesn’t save you from imprisonment either, as is the case with our protagonist Ant and her brother Mattie.

The idea of this book really grabbed me and the writing didn’t fail to keep me engaged. It’s fast paced and tense and sometimes I genuinely couldn’t put it down because I needed to know what was going to happen – pretty tricky when you have a baby to be looking after but I made it work 😉 Although it may sound a little far fetched initially I could see the almost logical thinking that could lead to this kind of law system. If your parents brought you up on stolen money, if you benefited from ill-gotten gains, are you complicit in their crime?

The idea of a blame culture is not new to us, although this is more extreme than anything we have today (yet!). In this book we see how easily the media can create and enforce a blame culture which targets and punishes innocent people. I think what makes this book so frightening is that it could so easily happen to us, especially with the power the media has today. Also the mention of the EU falling apart made me smirk as I was reading it just after the referendum results.

I really loved Ant and Mattie: sibling relationships are so much more interesting to me than romantic ones and it was great to see a YA mostly forgo the love interest in favour of a brother and sister relationship. The protection goes both ways between them: although Ant is older and protects him in a more physical sense, Mattie also protects her by calming her down and making her think things through a little more. I also liked how Mayo showed their Haitian background: rather than just telling us about them being biracial, he showed it through the language they used together.

There was an element of mystery in the book which was only resolved right at the very end, and had me on my toes wondering how they were going to survive everything. It was incredibly action packed and didn’t leave much time to catch a breather but that’s one of the things I loved about it. This is a really thought provoking book that will leave you musing on it for ages after.

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