Brian Conaghan, The Bombs That Brought Us Together, Bloomsbury/Allen & Unwin, May 2016, 368pp., $16.99 (pbk), ISBN: 9781408878415
The first half of the book is a real slog. I had to drag myself to it every night. I found the writing, while unique, hard to get into and the constant stream of consciousness at times difficult to follow and exhausting. Add to this a heavy backstory and huge dose of political rhetoric and honestly, if I hadn’t been reviewing it, I’m not sure I would have finished. A big problem for me was Charlie — the consummate good guy. The guy who never really has a bad thought about anyone, always wants to do the right thing and seems to be the only one who hasn’t been brainwashed — until he is. There were also too many weak connections in this book for me to fully appreciate its message. For example, in the beginning Charlie makes a big deal about staying away from the Big Man and the Rascals before suddenly deciding to ask the Big Man for some chairs and a table? What? Then there’s the fact he had no real friends until Pav the refugee comes along, which seems weird since he’s later presented as the guy who gets along with everyone. But what I found the most convenient and unbelievable is when the antagonist pins all his plans on Charlie. I mean, I undestand the idea behind grooming young men to do the dirty work, but the way it was handled here seems barely plausible.
Reviewing books which deal with relevant and important issues is always hard, but somehow it becomes even harder when I don’t love them. I’m grateful that the issues this book raises — refugees, oppression, war, political differences — have been tackled and confronted in a book for teens. But despite its excellent intentions, unfortunately I personally found the story dull and unconvincing.