Breakers by Doug Johnstone (Orenda Books)

I’m sure you have gathered by now, I’m a big Orenda Books fan, and recently, there has been a run of absolutely brilliant books from the Orenda bookshelves. I was excited by the blurb of Doug Johnstone’s Breakers. Here it is:

Seventeen-year-old Tyler lives in one of Edinburgh’s most deprived areas. Whilst trying to care for his little sister and his drug-addicted mother, he’s also coerced into robbing rich people’s homes by his bullying older siblings.

One night whilst on a job, his brother Barry stabs a homeowner and leaves her for dead. And that’s just the beginning of their nightmare, because they soon discover the woman is the wife of Edinburgh’s biggest crime lord, Deke Holt.

With the police and the Holts closing in, and his shattered family in terrible danger, Tyler is running out of options, until he meets posh girl Flick in another stranger’s house. Could she be his salvation? Or will he end up dragging her down with him?

The first thing I want to say about this book is that if you like your novels with hearts and flowers, you might want to steel yourself before reading this novel. But read it, you should. The narrative is incredibly powerful – it’s gritty and gory, with its roots firmly in the downtrodden and criminal underworld of Edinburgh. Johnstone depicts this slum-like, deprived location with such resonance that the reader cannot help but want to see Tyler and his little sister, Bean, get out of this desperate situation.

However, this novel is deeper than a hard luck story. This is a novel of bad luck and bad choices. Tyler, Bean and Flick are all victims of their parent’s circumstances, and as children in this situation, they are fighting battles they really shouldn’t have to. Johnstone shows their resourcefulness despite their lack of available resources and their resilience after particularly harrowing experiences. As a mother, this novel tugged at my heartstrings from start to finish, and I found myself wanting to know how Tyler, Bean and Flick turned out.

What Johnstone shows is that you can break a cycle of turning to crime when poverty-stricken or indeed, lacking in parental guidance. It doesn’t matter who you are or what background you are from, everyone has a story and their own demons to battle. As a narrative, this is a proper page-turner of a novel that you don’t want to put down. It’s fast paced, shocking at times, and Johnstone uses every literary tool in the box to develop a multi-faceted novel that generates a multitude of emotions in the reader.

I love this novel. It wasn’t an easy read in that there was a strong sense of realism in the narrative, in terms of the surroundings/location, and the situation of these children, but Johnstone shows light in the dark and hope in the seemingly hopelessness of Tyler’s situation. Also, by putting Tyler and Flick together despite their considerably different backgrounds highlights the misconception that money brings you happiness. Undoubtedly, Orenda Books has yet another successful novel on their hands. I will be recommending this novel to anyone who loves a gritty page turner.