On the Bookshelf...

Fallout

Lesley Parr

Can Marcus escape the future his parents expect him to have? Or is his fate decided by his family? A totally gripping read for readers of 10 and over, from the winner of the Wales Children's Book of the Year Award 2023. You can't choose your family… If you could, Marcus would never have opted to be a Pritchard. With one brother locked up and the other one working with their dad on plans for their next big robbery, they are well-known in their tightknit Welsh community, for all the wrong reasons. When a mysterious act of sabotage lands an old man in hospital, it's no surprise that Marcus gets the blame. Marcus feels trapped. It's as if everyone around him already knows who he is, before he's had a chance to find out for himself. But new girl Emma is different – and not just because she is a peace protester. She wants to get to know him. Is Marcus destined to follow in his father's footsteps or, with Emma’s help, can he find a way to trust and be trusted?

Fallout is a fascinating look at the early eighties through the eyes of teenagers in a Welsh valley. Taking in being a bit of an outlaw, the anti-nuclear movement and friendships tested to the limits. It's slice of the eighties feels very authentic from my distant memories.

Usually Lesley Parr, one of my favourite authors, concentrates her stories on the World War 2 era. They're meticulously researched and bring to life ordinary lives in the era. They're also compassionate stories, a real slice of life. Lesley has that knack of being able to make these eras come to life in the same way as Phil Earle and Robert Swindels. Tales of ordinary people living their lives.

Fallout is no different. Sure, the story is set in the turbulent era of the eighties, but you instantly are transported there with a writing style that puts you straight into the protagonists' lives. Marcus is a boy who is never given a chance by either his teachers or the local community. His family are into light crime. It would appear that Marcus will be following down the same rabbit hole, but yet he wants to be rid of their mad ideas. His elder brother is at 'Farm School', ie borstal, and encourages him to not be drawn into the family business. Emma is a bit of an outsider. She doesn't run with the herd but has strong views, especially on nuclear war. Add into this a pensioner Mick, who's building a nuclear shelter. Stand back and light the touch paper.

The characters in the book are well formed. Loved the way they interacted, each bringing the best out of each other. It's a story of not judging people by what they appear to be but looking under the surface and finding there's good in everyone. Except maybe not Gavin... Emma was my favourite character; I saw a lot of myself in her views at that age. Add in references to the Jam and I was hooked from the first page.

Another cracking novel from Lesley Parr. I can't wait to read more from her. Highly recommended to schools as a class read.

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Review by
AJ Steel
June 11, 2024

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