A powerful and disturbing first novel about growing up and the power of education to distort, transform and illuminate
When he wants to get away from things, away from his mum and Uncle Tuck, away from the shouting and the sound of the TV, Merton Browne hides in his cupboard with a torch and a Tintin book and pretends he's going to space.
As he gets older things don't change much. He thinks secondary school will be about learning, but mainly it's about staying out of trouble. Disenchanted and desperate to avoid the attentions of Savage and his posse, Merton finds refuge among the forgotten history books in a dusty basement, remnants of another regime.
Inspired by what he reads he comes up with a plan to earn protection for him and his friend, and soon finds himself appointed consigliere by Savage's increasingly ambitious gang. Fifteen and fired up by the discovery of sex, drugs and power, Merton is convinced he's on the brink of causing a revolution. But the repercussions of one night present Merton with a choice. He needs to decide who he is, who he wants to be and where his loyalties lie.
As soon as you read the first page you're gripped by the voice...a state of the nation novel...a very tough, unflinching look at what life is like today...but there's also an incredible amount of hope...scary, compelling, original...brilliant - Boyd Hilton, Simon Mayo Show, Radio 5
Merton has a distinctive voice - edgy, sharp, and avid for adventure, whether it's drugs or sex. His inner struggle to abandon his self-destructive path and become responsible for his own life makes for a gripping read. - Daily Mail
An explosive, disturbingly realistic story - Guardian
Visceral, tough and original - Tim Lott
A vivid, sometimes shocking novel, which combines a fast-moving narrative with an incisive, satirical critique of comprehensive education - Piers Paul Read, Spectator , Books of the Year