Split Second

Publisher: Simon & Schuster Children's Books

Review

When a bomb goes off in a London market, Charlie’s mother is killed and Nat’s brother is left fighting for his life in a coma. Six months later,  they find they are classmates at the fancy private school that Charlie has been moved to when she goes to live with her uncle.

Despite forming a quick friendship with his sister Jas, Nat gives Charlie the cold shoulder from day one, worried that she’ll learn the true nature of his brother’s involvement in her mother’s death. By the time Charlie and Nat realise they’re angry with the same people they are caught in the middle of a dangerous web of political lies and terrorist groups. Radical idealists recruit the teenagers but Nat and Charlie need to work out how they feel about each other and which side they’re really on.

Sophie McKenzie’s fast-paced thriller is just the first installment of Nat and Charlie’s story: a projected sequel should tidy up some unresolved issues, such as Jas's eating disorder, which is introduced but never confronted.  Told in alternating points of view, the two characters' different versions of events highlight their own confused interpretations of each other’s feelings (which are pretty obvious to any outsider!). The choppy chapters give the story momentum and the mini cliffhanger endings can make the next character’s interruption almost frustrating. But on the edge of their seat is exactly where McKenzie wants the reader to be, and there are twists and turns enough to satisfy readers looking for  drama and action. The inevitable romance is kept low-key: McKenzie clearly wants to keep the breakdown of society in the forefront of both her characters’ and her readers’ minds, and action movie-style sequences ensure entertainment remains the top priority.

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