Sunday, 17 January 2010
Review: The Returners by Gemma Malley
Will Hodge's life is a mess! His mother is dead, he has no friends and he thinks he is being followed by a strange group of people who tell him they know him. But Will can't remember them ...at first. And when he does he doesn't like what he can remember. While Will is struggling with unsettling memories, he learns that his past is a lot deeper than many people's, and he has to find out if he is strong enough to break links with the powerful hold that history has on him.
Despite this being Gemma Malley's third book (the other two being The Declaration and The Revelation) this is the first book by her that I have read. It is a standalone novel, however based on the quality of The Returners this is an error on my part that needs rectifying as soon as possible.
Will Hodges, the main character of The Returners lives in a Britain of the not-too-distant future, and the story paints a pretty bleak portrait of British society at this time. The economy is crumbling and a nationalistic political party is rapidly gaining public favour with slogans such as England for the English, and British jobs for British workers. The fact that our current society is not a million miles away from this one with the BNP making headway in some areas and hate crimes taking place on the streets makes it an even more thought-provoking and, at times, disturbing read.
It took me a few chapters to get into this book but once I did I read it in one sitting. The reason I found it so hard at the beginning is that Gemma Malley has created a protagonist that it is very hard to like initially. Will's mother died when he was eight, apparently commiting suicide whilst he watched on, and now he is full of self-loathing. His home is not a particularly pleasant place to return to after a day at school as his heavy drinking father's attitude is becoming increasingly bigoted, due in no small part to his friendship with Patrick, a senior member of said nationalist party. On top of all this, as a reader you rapidly begin to suspect that Will might also be bipolar, demonstrated by his mood swings and moments of memory loss. So, all in all, a pretty difficult character to associate with but believe me this book was well worth my perseverence.
The first part of the story deals with building the characters of Will, his father and his friend Claire, whilst also giving us some back-story relating to his mother and the months running up to her death. During this part of the story we also see Will having vivid and disturbing dreams, and his increasing paranoia caused by the odd looking people who appear to be following him. It is only as Will finally starts to talk to these "freaks", the Returners of the book's title, that this book began to really pull me in. At this point Gemma Malley introduces a supernatural element to her plot, and the story suddenly becomes more than just a tale about a depressed teenage boy struggling to understand his life, and becomes a chilling exploration into the differences between fate and free will. I refuse to go into more detail regarding this as I would hate to spoil the surprises this book will deliver. All I will say is that by the end of this book I am positive that you will have experienced a full range of emotions (not all of them pleasant by the way) and like me you will be racing out to buy Ms Malley's other books.
The Returners is scheduled to be published on 22nd February 2010 in both hardback and paperback, and I feel very lucky and grateful to have been sent a copy by Bloomsbury to review on my blog.