Bel Reviews: Sara Mussi's - "Siege"
We’ve all heard of Jamie Oliver’s battle with the British Education system to give the kids healthy school meals… right? Well if you haven’t then know that they travelled to some pretty grim-looking schools in the poorer areas of the UK.
These schools are the kind I imagined for the setting of Siege by Sarrah Mussi.
Here’s the Goodreads blurb.
“Leah Jackson – in detention. Then armed Year 9s burst in, shooting. She escapes, just. But the new Lock Down system for keeping intruders out is now locking everyone in. She takes to the ceilings and air vents with another student, Anton, and manages to use her mobile to call out to the world.
First: survive the gang – the so-called ‘Eternal Knights’.
Second: rescue other kids taken hostage, and one urgently needing medical help.
Outside, parents gather, the army want intelligence, television cameras roll, psychologists give opinions, sociologists rationalize, doctors advise – and they all want a piece of Leah. Soon her phone battery is running out; the SAS want her to reconnoiter the hostage area … But she is guarding a terrifying conviction. Her brother, Connor, is at the center of this horror. Is he with the Eternal Knights or just a pawn?
She remembers. All those times Connor reached out for help … If she’d listened, voiced her fears about him earlier, would things be different now? Should she give up her brother?
With only Anton for company, surviving by wits alone, Leah wrestles with the terrible choices …“
This is a relatively small book visually, however the horrors bound between the covers are anything but. There is an adapted Harry Knowles quote from Ain’t It Cool News directly before the title page that reads
‘If you leave this story feeling unsettled, disturbed, alarmed that this could happen – good. You should be alarmed. That is the point: to scare you, to make you not want to be another mindless, thoughtless, follower.’
When I was in school, we didn’t even know what a ‘lock down’ was. Sure you had fire drills and practising for a bomb scare, but these things all included leaving the school behind and fleeing to safety. It wasn’t until my daughter started school that I ever knew anything of a ‘lock down’. It describes a situation where you are a prisoner in your classroom until the all clear is given. What scares me the most is that they’ve had a few real ones to go with the drills. And we’re in a ‘safe’ suburb of Brisbane!
The thought of something like the occurrences in Siege happening isn’t a far-fetched stretch of the imagination. It scares the goobers out of me. So you can imagine the nightmares I had while reading about the amazing heroine named Leah Jackson. The girl who really is just a normal student who behaves heroically in a frightful set of circumstances.
I did happen to begin reading this book during a thunderstorm and the first character to be shot in front of Leah coincided with a rather close thunder clap. I had one of those cartoon-cat-on-the-ceiling moments and from there I was well and truly on the edge of my seat.
This is not a pretty book to look at, or to read. The subject matter is gritty and disturbing. However I think it is a story that is relevant and shows how things may turn, if we don’t take notice of the way society as a whole disenfranchises disadvantaged young people.
A modern day Lord of the Flies, with a far better hero.
Published March 7th 2013 by Hodder Children’s Books (first published March 1st 2013)