Publisher: Orion Children’s Books | Publication date: 9th April 2015 | Edition: Paperback (review copy)
This is a story that grabs you from the very first line. It’s a short read, but not an entirely comfortable one, as the writer invites us deep inside a young man’s head to experience his inner most thoughts.
That young man is Nick Mallory. He is just seventeen and is lying motionless in hospital following a nasty car accident. Between bouts of consciousness he can see and hear most of what’s going on, but he’s unable to react to his family or the nurses caring for him in any way.
During his time in this waking coma, Nick’s thoughts and frustrations are relayed to us in the first person, quite brilliantly I might add. Even though he can’t be heard physically at this stage, as a reader we hear him ‘voice’ his responses to the snatched conversations of visitors, while trying to piece together the broken pieces of his life.
Despite bedside vigils by his family and girlfriend, progress is slow. Nick’s memory of the events leading up to accident does eventually become clearer, but all the while he harbours an unexplained resentment for his ex-military-turned-politician father.
While Nick is struggling to understand why he’s so angry at his hero dad, there’s another puzzle to contend with, like the strange man with ‘dead eyes’ who appears at the foot of his hospital bed, and all Nick can do is watch him silently screaming.
It seems that surviving the crash would be the easy part, as there are some things you can’t recover from, like the truth. ‘Dead eyes’ knows everything – and now he wants justice.
This unusual story shows us how easily good intentions can turn sour and shatter innocent lives. It takes courage to listen to your conscience and try to put things right. But for some people, things can never be the same again.
End Game is a quick-paced story and my attention didn’t waiver at any time. But there was one circumstance much later on in the book that I couldn’t quite bring myself to accept (when Nick was left alone, despite apparent ‘dangers’). I won’t elaborate further as I don’t want to spoil the plot for anyone. But I will say that this is worth a look if only to experience Nick’s inner dialogue, which is quite excellent.
(Many thanks to the publisher for sending a paperback copy of this book for review, much appreciated. Twitter: @fiercefiction)
Alan Gibbons is the author of many books – if you would like to read more about his work, you can check out his author page on Amazon UK by following the link below:
Note: Don’t be confused by the cover on Amazon UK as the book title is shown as ‘You Took My Son’, and not End Game, although the description is correct (as of the time of publishing this review).