Wednesday, 29 June 2016

End Game by Alan Gibbons

review by Maryom

Seventeen year old Nick Mallory is lying in a hospital bed, his memory wiped almost clear. He can remember driving his father's BMW, remember crashing it into a tree, but not why he was in the car in the first place or why he was furious with his father. Although Nick can see and hear what's going on around him, notice his mother's concern, and his father's slight shiftiness, he can't communicate with anyone, can't lift a finger or bat an eyelid. So he drifts off into dreams and memories, always followed by the haunting dead eyes of a frightening visitor who comes in the night. Gradually Nick begins to piece together the events that led up to the crash, and remember the the dishonest and dangerous deals his dad has been involved in ...

End Game is a thriller-style read about a father-son relationship which goes off the rails when the son, Nick, becomes disillusioned with the father he once idolised. Now, I suspect that a lot of children grow up to discover their parents aren't quite the heroes they'd once been seen as, but Nick's father has a lot further to fall than most. As a soldier, he was a 'real' hero, especially to his young son, and, even when he turned to politics, his concern over injured soldiers and determination to fight for them maintained that status.
Events are seen solely from Nick's point of view, so despite having acted stupidly and dangerously, he definitely has the reader on his side. You can't help but feel sorry for Nick, though the clearly seen anguish of his mother and sister might temper your support of him a little. His father though is a different matter - his behaviour at the hospital is odd and shifty, and, even when he can't remember why, Nick has an inkling that his father has done something despicable, which obviously taints the reader's view. The author manages though, as Nick's memories re-surface, to capture the way the father appears to have been duped, which leaves the way open for a father/son reconciliation.

There's a lot here for teens to think about and debate; issues about arms deals, guilt versus innocence, who should accept responsibility for mistakes, and, of course, what their own attitude would be faced with similar circumstances.

Putting the evidence together piece by piece, through the eyes of someone trying to recover lost memories is a clever way of tempting the reader in, grabbing their attention and making them want to read on till the mystery is uncovered. It's excellently done, and I certainly didn't want to put the book down. 

Maryom's Review - 5 stars 
Publisher - Indigo/Hachette 
Genre -  teen/YA fiction

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