Book Author: Simon Mayo
Book Series: N/A
Genre: Teen & YA, Dystopia, Sci-fi
First Published: July 2016
One word to describe this book: WOW! It is a book set in the not so distant future, following the journey of Ant and her little brother, Matthew.
I heard about this book after going to a joint talk
with authors Phillip Reeve and Simon Mayo. Both authors had a lot of interesting things to say about their books and the talk worked to promote them. I now have the full set of Phillip Reeve’s mortal engines and Simon Mayo’s young adult book, Blame.
Mayo’s pitch of the book sounded interesting and so I wanted to see if the book could live up to the same standard. It has. It is now my favourite Young Adult book.
Ant and her little brother, Mattie live life in a prison. Not because they did anything wrong, but because they are decendents of criminals.
But tension is rising and Ant and Mattie have one chance to break out.
The plot is superb.
The protagonists, Ant and Mattie are locked up in prison because their parents committed a crime. The parents abandoned Ant and Mattie and went on the run. Since then, a new law means that the children are locked up to pay for the crimes their parents committed. Unfortunately for Ant and Mattie, their foster parents’ parents also committed a crime, meaning they have to serve time for that crime too – along with the foster parents of course.
The good news is that their foster brother, Max, had managed to escape, travelling to Germany, one of the few countries that refused to imprison innocent people for the crimes of relatives.
Ant is nearly 18 and is due to be released. But someone wants Ant to serve extra time, creating issues that could lengthen her sentence. They have to break out but there is a lot of cost and sacrifice involved.
Soon, Ant and Mattie are on the run. Everyone is looking for them and they have no idea who among their family and friends have managed to survive the riot.
‘Mwen sonje’w,’ he whispered, resorting to the Creole slang their mother had taught them – (Mayo, 2016, p. 20).
The plot is a classic survival one. Not knowing who to trust, their faces plastered on every screen and hovering cameras, a bit like the ones we have now. Then they meet their biological father who abandoned them. But Ant isn’t taken in and tries to get away knowing he is after something and that something has nothing to do with fatherly love.
However, there is only one way!
Mayo manages to hold the plot and narrative of the story very well, creating conflict and turns at every point possible with plot twists around each corner. It is beautifully written with little use of exposition.
There is so much detail in the book that makes it vivid. You can see the metal strap that some characters wear – identifying them as heritage criminals by forcing them to walk a certain way. You can see the vulnerability of the characters who are forced to wear these when they go out in public, to work – they can still work, though under strict surveillance and they must be back by a certain time.
Just like most minorities, these people who have been deemed heritage criminals don’t get any support from the general public. Mostly because they are afraid that any support will mean their family tree will be closely looked into.
They were all strutters, all on the same side, but apart from her brother and maybe her foster parents, she had faith in no one. (Mayo, 2016, p13)
While Mayo is good at making you see the world, he does not do it in a Dickens style. That is, it is not a heavy read. The language is light and the action adds to the world building just as much as the description does. This is seen on the first page when we are first introduced to the protagonist, Ant.
From the first page, I had a sense of who Ant was. Her character. And knew she was going to be a strong, active protagonist.
The prison felt authentic and I felt I could see exactly how their life was lived in the confined walls of their cell. This confinement also added to Ant’s character. I find it amazing how vivid the prison is despite Mayo being refused entrance to prisons for his research – which he mentioned in his talk.
I love the way the author built this world. I think it is realistic and believable and it suits both, the characters and the storyline. And honestly, it is scary because it is something that I can see happening in our future 50 or 60 years down the line.
Her agitation and six-o’clock deadline forgotten, she pulled her hood over her shaved head and leaned in close. (Mayo, 2016, p.4)
The characters are well-rounded and leap from the page, you can really get a sense of the protagonist, Ant. She’s scary, witty, intelligent, tough and a rebel but her motivation is her little nerdy, scaredy-cat brother, Mattie. Nothing else matters to her but him.
Mattie doesn’t want any trouble but is often dragged into it, either by his parents or by Ant. When inside the prison, he tries and behaves according to the rules so that he will not get into trouble and to stop anything from happening to his sister or his foster parents.
Max has never been fond of his foster siblings, especially Ant. He always feared that Ant would cause trouble for them that they cannot get out of. However, as the story develops, he has to work with Ant and Mattie to rescue them… that is… if they are still alive. Risking his freedom, he travels back to the UK to try and help Ant and Mattie and his parent.
Some characters were allowed out the prisons to go to work having trackers and devices strapped to them, marking them as a descendant of criminals. Leaving them to be vulnerable and attacked by society.
The atmosphere and attitude of the background characters are varied, unique and fit well into the setting he has created. Most of the people outside of the prison fear to commit a crime, either because they fear they’ll be imprisoned or their children will. That is why it is so hard for the main characters to know who to trust.
They lose and experience so much on this journey
Despite all of this, Ant refuses to let her spirit be destroyed. She is strong all the way through, not for her, but for her brother. The ending is terrific and the book is really well written. I struggled to put it down the whole time I was reading it.
If you walked into a bookshop with me and pointed this book out on the shelf, I would not have picked it up. Why?
The cover is not appealing. Here’s where that old-age saying: “Don’t judge a book by it’s cover” rings true. A big, bright, orange cover with the word Blame printed on the front doesn’t attract the eye but the story is amazing.
I honestly cannot think of one thing in this book that I did not like. The pacing of the story was on key, it was descriptive but also full of action. The imagery leapt from every word and the characters were so realistic that you could not help but feel a connection to them.
I’ve read many young adult books, especially recently and it is the best one I have read in such a long time.
My advice? Just read it! Get the book!
It’s the best Young Adult book I have read in a long time! Just read it. Trust me.
Rating for this book is: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
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