“The Before Time
In the time before the shooting I was Leah Jackson, sixteen years old. I used to wish my life was different. I had one brother of thirteen, Connor; one six-year-old sister, Sally. N dad. Not one I’d met, anyway. A mum with depression.
In the before time, I took care of everyone.”
Leah hears the gunshots, they sound like popcorn popping. Sat in detention she knows no difference, until she hears the pounding footsteps in the corridor and see the two boys run into the room, shooting Miss Carter straight through the head. She does what anyone would do, she runs. Along with Anton she runs as fast as she can, away from the gunmen – or gunboys as they are kids from her brother’s year. However the running is soon cut short when they find the school has been put on lock-down. No-one is getting in or out and the kids with the guns mean business.
Siege is raw and powerful. If you don’t like violence, gore and reading about acts of terrorism, this book is not for you. I really didn’t know what to expect with Siege but its fast pace, its feeling of terror and the constant danger aspect for its main character kept me reading intently.
The story isn’t one for the fainthearted, there’s no other way to describe it other than raw. It centres around Leah who is hiding and trying to come up with a plan to escape her school because of these gunmen. There’s more to it than meets the eye though and, whilst I don’t want to go into too much detail to spoil the book for prospective readers, there’s others at work than the boys holding the guns. I wasn’t sure who to trust to be honest, but I am a bit of a conspiracy nut and never trust anyone at first so this book really tapped into that part of me.
The world building isn’t great to be honest and its what let the book down a lot. Everything was told in first person narrative from Leah and whilst Sarah Mussi tried to include all the background about the education system and society, it didn’t paint a huge picture of the world in 2020, beyond the school that Leah was trapped in. It’s only because of my background in sociology and my knowledge of where we are going with the education system at the minute (the creation of academies and free schools) that I really understood what was going on in the book, I think this could be a huge problem with younger readers though as they might not understand any of that unless they go to a school which has been effected.
The character building was fantastic though and I loved how much Leah and Anton changed becuase of the events in the book. Leah was a natural caregiver, she was used to looking after her brother and sister because of her mum’s depression so it was natural that she would want to help Ruby, a girl who had been kind to her sister, and Ali, one of her friends. That aspect of her personality was there right from the start of the book but due to the events, later on she changes… not dramatically but enough to make us see what effect the shootings have on her. Anton as well was very caring but many he looked out for number one. This changed dramatically in the book and I really liked it because it was because of his intelligence that it did change. He was a very clever guy and you could tell he deserved better than the education given to him, I really cared for Anton and Leah in this book. The other characters were well portrayed but not as much as we didn’t get to know them so well because of the style of writing.
As I’ve said, Siege is not for the faint of heart and definitely not for younger readers. Whilst I loved it I would be very careful giving it to someone my stepsons age (12) and I would have to hope that any younger reader was very mature in their mindset before reading. It is a gritty tale of love, family and conspiracy which really piqued my interest as soon as I read the back cover but I doubt I would have loved it so much if I had read it before my Sociology A Level!
Siege was published on March 7th by Hodder. My copy was sent from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
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