Monday, 21 March 2011

Review: The Gun by Bali Rai

When Jonas finds a gun left from a shooting he takes it home. He can't wait to show his mates Kamal and Binny, who reckon they can use the gun to bolster their own street cred. But when Kamal starts to use the gun in robberies, Jonas realises it's only a matter of time before someone gets hurt.

I have long been a proponent of the outstanding work Barrington Stoke do in publishing great stories for young people who really struggle with their reading, and they have an ever-expanding list of boy friendly books in their catalogue. I am sure I am preaching to the converted but if you have not heard of Barrington Stoke then you really should check them out - they are an award-winning publishing company who specialise in books for dyslexic and struggling readers. In fact, as soon as you have read this review then please head on over to their website at

Author Bali Rai has written a handful of books for Barrington Stoke, the most recent being The Gun. Mr Rai has been slowly building a reputation over the past few years for writing hard-edged dramas, often set in inner city areas, with theme that focus on many of the contemporary issues that face young people living in these areas, and The Gun is no exception to this. It is a simple tale of three friends witnessing a drive-by shooting, one of whom manages to get his hands on the hastily discarded weapon before the police are on the scene. For Jonas it is all something of an adventure to have his hands on a firearm, but with gang culture never far away, and Jonas's friend Kamal deciding that he has big plans for the gun, things soon get out of hand. Kamal is very much a loose cannon, described by Jonas's sister as "....always five seconds away from going crazy", and soon even his friends are unable to control him.

Many boys living in inner city areas will be able to relate to the issues within this story. Some will have been tempted into carrying a knife at some point, and many will know someone who regularly carries one. However, many books for teens that cover these issues are much longer novels, and are probably not often read by the boys who need to read them the most, boys who are reluctant or struggling readers. The Gun, however, with its 65 pages and trademark Barrington Stoke large type and careful editing is perfect for boys like these, especially with its recommended Reading Age of 8 and Interest Age of 14+. Yet again, Bali Rai shows in this book that he really knows what makes young people tick, he understands how their relationships work and also the language they use. My thanks go to Barrington Stoke for sending me a copy.