Wednesday 26 October 2011

Have You Read…

KILL ALL ENEMIES by Melvin Burgess

I’d been good for nearly a week. Only one fight; it must have been a record for me. I should have known it couldn’t last…

Billie keeps getting into trouble - she doesn’t mean to, but somehow it just happens. Chris thinks school is a waste of time - he’s desperate to leave, but his parents are forcing him to stay. And Rob might look big and tough, but his violent stepfather keeps getting the better of him, and inside, he feels utterly helpless. Soon, events take a downward spiral for each of them and they get excluded from their schools and are sent to the Brandt, the local Pupil Referral Unit (PRU). There, their lives collide, with surprising results for all of them.

At first glance, Billie, Chris and Rob seem like the sort of teenagers the media delights in demonising - troublemakers, wasters, no-hopers. But there is more to their stories than first meets the eye. Almost immediately, you start to learn the real reasons behind their behaviour, and why school isn’t – and often can’t – be their number one priority. As the story unfolds, it reveals a hidden world where the characters are unsung heroes, fighting for themselves and their loved ones, while so many of those around them are blind to what's really going on in their lives.

Burgess, author of the controversial and brilliant Junk and Doing It, as well as many other highly-acclaimed novels for children and young adults, visited several PRUs in the course of researching Kill All Enemies – which started life as a project commissioned for Channel 4 – and Billie, Chris and Rob are based on the kids he talked to. They are such engaging and believable characters, and knowing their stories come from real life makes them all the more harrowing, because they could be the stories of people you see every day: that kid slouching at the bus stop with their hood pulled over their face and a cigarette dangling from their lower lip; the one getting into fights behind the school; the one hanging out in the park late at night in the rain because anywhere’s better than home…

Luckily for Chris, Billie and Rob, there are a few people who do understand them – or at least try to – and who help to stop them falling through the cracks completely.

As for the ending… when I read the closing lines, I wanted to punch the air and cheer. Chris, you’re my hero! But I won’t spoil it by telling you why - if you want to find out, grab yourself a copy now!


  1. What a fab review Emma. I love the idea of peeling back the layers on characters to reveal what lies beneath, and this book sounds as if it does that. The characters sound amazing. Of course, I'm going to have to read it now!

  2. This is another one I haven't read! My TBR pile just got bigger... Thanks for the great review, Emma!

  3. Great review. I've read a couple of Burgess's books - JUNK, which is very good, and BLOODTIDE which I don't remember much about. I recall there was quite a controversy when JUNK was published - in the days before 'YA' fiction - because people weren't quite sure what to make of it. A children's book about runaways, squatting, drugs and teenage sex . . .

  4. Thank you Abi, Talli and Dan - glad you all liked the review! I think you'll definitely like the book, too.

    Many people consider Melvin Burgess to be the 'grandfather' of YA fiction, and when you read JUNK, you can see why. It deals with difficult issues, alright – but then those issues are reality for some young people. Burgess has always been brilliant at giving people at the edges of society a voice - and he does it again, wonderfully, in KILL ALL ENEMIES.

  5. Great post Emma - sorry not to have visited lately:)

  6. No worries Louise - glad you liked the post and thank you for commenting! :)

  7. Fab review - I have to get this book now. My TBR pile is tottering...

  8. I had to read this as part of my study. I agree that it is not as bad as it seems, best not to judge it until the end. Maria