Wednesday, August 3, 2011



Reviewed by Craig Sisterson

Rochelle has her hopes set on one day playing in the National Women's Inline Hockey team. Her goal seems to slip from her reach as she gets sucked into her brother, Jack's world of gangs and drug dealing. But is the gang life what Rochelle's brother really wants or is it a choice his father has made for him?

Rochelle finds herself in a dangerous world supported by the most unlikely companions and soon learns there's a price to be paid for these friendships – an ultimate price.

Deservedly shortlisted for the LIANZA Young Adult Fiction Award, this gritty first instalment in Palmerston North physics teacher Ken Benn’s planned trilogy follows a group of teens facing plenty of tough circumstances and troubling issues: bullying, gangs, drugs, and youth crime.

The story is told from multiple perspectives, including chapters told through Rochelle's eyes, her brother Jack's, their alcoholic ex-con hockey coach Methsy, a character called 'The Geek', and another adult. This has the potential to be messy, but Benn skillfully builds tension as he switches perspectives amongst these intriguing characters. And despite the different narrators, inline hockey player Rochelle, whose brother Jack is being dragged into his father’s gang, is clearly the star.

LETHAL DELIVERIES is a tough book that will tug at your emotions. The characters - many of them teenagers - face some 'heavy' issues and harsh consequences. Life ain't easy. For me, Benn gives a real sense of authenticity to his characters, they seem very 'real', if at times quite mature for their age (possibly as a result of some of the things they've already seen in their young lives). I understand that while researching this book Benn talked to both victims and perpetrators of youth crime, visited a youth justice facility and talked to social workers, and even slept under a bridge with a group of streetkids "who had decided to opt out of society," to try to understand what their life was like.

That research has paid off in the vivid and compelling world he creates. There are some pretty serious issues dealt with here, including murder, homelessness, and drugs. But it never feels heavy handed or too dark. There's a sense of life and fun with the characters, despite the dark deeds, and there are underlying themes relating to family and loyalty and friendship too.

Overall I thought LETHAL DELIVERIES bluntly dealt with harsh realities some Kiwi kids face, and was a very good read that left me intrigued about book two in the series.

Craig Sisterson is a lapsed lawyer who writes features for leading magazines and newspapers in several countries. He has interviewed more than 180 crime writers, discussed crime writing onstage at literary festivals in Europe and Australasia, and on national radio and top podcasts. He has been a judge of the Ned Kelly Awards, the McIlvanney Prize, and is the Judging Convenor of the Ngaio Marsh Awards. You can find him on Twitter: @craigsisterson

No comments:

Post a Comment