Nikesh Shukla, Hodder Children’s Books, 2018
This novel is a teenage thriller, tense, absorbing and provocative.
Taran and her twin, Hari had never wanted to move to Firestone House. Things had to change when their parents’ rent was doubled and their father’s chemotherapy treatment meant that he could not continue to work. The twins had to adjust to making a new home in the tower block and over time they learned the value of being part of a strong community where people looked out for each other. This is the point at which we enter the story.
At first, Taran and Hari take little notice as flats are boarded up and glossy flyers start advertising expensive apartments locally. Bit by bit, however, Hari is caught up in the related tragedy of a murder on the estate and the ‘Run’ of the novel’s title takes on emphasis as the teenage protagonists of justice attempt to uncover the sinister truth of what is going on behind the scenes of Firestone House-the tower block which just happens to be ripe for “development”.
What follows is a pacey thriller, with a fast-moving plot, energised by frequent twists and turns which keep the reader engaged. Major contemporary themes such as the social price of property development, the human cost of area gentrification, of institutional corruption and power are pitted against a paean of praise for community values and team work.
At times, prescient of the Grenfell Tower tragedy, it is hard to remember that it is a teenage thriller. It seems ripe for cross-over status to include adult readers. Clearly the relative lack of complication which underpins the plot solutions and the agency of its teen protagonists keep it fictional; but it is also truthful. The ultimate fate of Firestone House is sealed. The relevance to us all of this disgrace makes the novel deserve a much wider readership. Nikesh Shukla, for me, says it all:
Recommended reading age: Y A 14+ and Cross-Over to adult readers.“Everywhere is chaos.
Ellie and Sarah; Shabana and Shazia; Mo, Ahmed, Paul; Uncle Terry; Alice and David; Cody and Alice; Chloe, Cody and Rizwan …
They all have names.
They all live here.”
Contains some strong language.
Reviewer, Morag Charlwood. Review first appeared in Armadillo Children’s Book Magazine, Winter 2018
Biographical Notes: Nikesh Shukla.
Nikesh Shukla is the editor of British Book Award-shortlisted anthology The Good Immigrant, a collection of essays by British writers of colour about race and immigration in the UK. His debut novel, Coconut Unlimited, was shortlisted for the Costa First Novel Award. Nikesh has written for The Guardian, Observer, Independent, Esquire, Buzzfeed, Vice and BBC2, LitHub, Guernica and BBC Radio 4. Nikesh was one of Foreign Policy magazine’s 100 Global Thinkers and The Bookseller‘s 100 most influential people in publishing in 2016 and in 2017. He is the co-founder of the literary journal, The Good Journaland The Good Literary Agency.