An Act of Love – Alan Gibbons

“You think you’re invincible when you’re a kid. Invincible, that’s a laugh. We’re easy to hurt, any of us, all of us. Physically, emotionally we snap. Like a matchstick. Easy as that.
And the damage can last a day.
A week.
I open my eyes. I crave daylight. There’s darkness inside me, stifling, suffocating. It’s always been there.
Since it happened.
Since the explosion.”
Chris has just returned from Afghanistan. Wounded in combat he is due to receive a medal for his work. While he awaits the ceremony he flashes back to the scenes of war, he’s stuck in the mind-set he was in on the front. But then he gets a text message from his childhood friend Imran, and everything changes, he isn’t concentrating on the war anymore. He’s thinking about his life leading up to that very moment.

An Act of Love is amazingly written, it is a tragic story about two friends, from childhood they grow apart, into directions which couldn’t be more distant. Chris grows to be a fighter, boxing and not knowing where life will take him until he joins the army. Imran is a smart kid but is affected too much by the scenes which reach TV screens of the fighting in Gaza and other countries. Both boys think that the direction they have chosen is right, but is it?
I loved this book, it’s so powerful! I couldn’t put it down I was so moved. It really does open your eyes to what goes on in right here in England. I know how awful people can be, I know that in built up mixed-ethnicity towns there is a lot of fighting and racism but Alan Gibbons gets it put across so well that I was reading some parts of this book and I was ashamed for the characters who were being blatant racists! I love that Gibbons makes a point of the type of people who act in this way by one guy saying “go back to Islam.”
I loved the way this was written, it was mainly from Chris’s voice, even when Chris wasn’t really there and was also split into different perspectives between Chris and Imran, with a couple of mini-chapters coming from two other unknown (until near the end) people. The perspectives switched years too, so you got a lot of the background of the two boys, as well as their feelings and thoughts whilst Chris’ medal ceremony was happening. I have read books where time-switches got confusing and I had to keep checking the dates and stuff but one was written so well that I never lost where I was.
The two characters were totally relatable. For a lot of teenagers they get to 16 and cant work out where to go next and that’s a huge part of this story. Chris was a lovely guy, but not realy clever and not educationally motivated, so at 16 he had no clue and I did want to just get him, shake him and tell him not to go to the army. You know instantly that hes been wounded in war and as you learn more about him you don’t want that to happen to him. Imran was a different story, I kind of got mad at him because he was really smart but just let things get to him more than he should, he couldn’t help it, he was over-sensitive but I wish he could have been a little smarter when he needed to be!
I can totally see this book being used in a school as a way to get kids to engage with current affairs, war-time events and terrorism. I wouldn’t be surprised to go into a school and see this on the shelf in ten or fifteen years because it is a book that is going to stick with you. I loved it because it really got my emotions going, it was educational, and it was an amazing story. I would really recommend getting this book as it really doesn’t get more contemporary than this!
Alan Gibbons has been writing children’s book for over 15 years. An Act of Love is his newest addition and is available from Thursday June 2nd. Many thanks to Orion for sending me a review copy. 


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