This new novel by Alan Gibbons is the perfect book for male readers. I hope that doesn’t sound wrong. There are not enough male teen novels, and this one is of political as well as human importance. Young people need the kind of good example someone like Alan can set them.
It’s about war, but a more real kind of war that feels far removed from the Andy McNab type of war. It’s also a very working class story, which made me realise quite how middle class (or ‘worse’) much fiction is.
Chris and Imran are neighbours and they grow up together. They are the best of friends and they always do things together, until terrorism and politics and religion get in the way and they eventually go their separate ways.
Chris becomes a soldier and goes to fight in Afghanistan. Imran is found by religion and risks being brainwashed into terror deeds. An Act of Love begins at the end, almost. We are then taken back to various stages in the boys’ lives from about age eight. The reader finds out what happened to the two of them.
This way it’s clear how much we are all pawns in a much bigger game. I hope it will show young readers that they need to think for themselves and to learn to value friendship. We see the fears of the Millennium bug, then travel in time via the 11th September in New York and the 7th of July in London, before arriving in the war which is still being ‘fought’ and looks like it won’t ever end.
Evil and prejudice will always be with us in some form or other. But hopefully this book can give us some hope. It’s funny how Imran’s mother describes herself as a Yorkshire girl, shocked at encountering racism and being told to go back where she came from.
The pace makes for breathless reading as you approach the end. Having begun at the end, the plot moves towards what ultimately has to happen, after twelve years of back-story. Imran and Chris are still teenagers, and they have both seen too much.
I hope this book will open many eyes.