Political activism is an unusual and refreshing subject for teen fiction, and Catherine Barter approaches it with great skill. This is a book about decisions, consequences, responsibility and love as much as it is about a teenager on her own political journey.
Alena lives with her brother Danny and his boyfriend. She is growing up in a London rocked by terrorism and unrest, where politicians seek to exploit fear and social upheaval is everywhere. Alena doesn't remember her mother, and that's ok - until suddenly it's not. As the turmoil in the city infects her personal life, Alena begins to ask questions. Why won't Danny talk about their mother? What happened when Alena was a little girl? What does the past have to tell her about the person she is now?
Alena's anger grows as she discovers more about her mother's political activism and begins to realise the depth of the deception that surrounds her. Driven by frustration and by an awakening political awareness, she makes a choice she cannot alter. The consequences are profound for her and for those she loves.
Barter is never simplistic; all the characters are complex and believable, and there is no straightforward definition of right and wrong. It's so well written and engaging that I read it in one sitting, desperate to know where Alena's journey would end. Alena's voice is so real and convincing that the book feels like a conversation with her: angry, hurt, confused and funny. It's impossible not to applaud her courage as she sets out to understand her past so that she can embark on her future. Highly recommended.