Reviews provided by Syndetics
Publishers Weekly Review
In this allegorical coming-of-age novel, 14-year-old Charlie Law struggles to stay alive in a war zone amid prejudice and tough decisions. Charlie lives in Little Town, where a corrupt regime rules through fear and tyranny, and criminals have all the power. When he befriends Pavel Duda, whose family fled the neighboring Old Country, both boys experience culture shock but become inseparable. Then Old Country bombs and occupies Little Town, disrupting the social and civil structures. To survive, Charlie and Pav become indebted to the powerful Big Man, a crime lord with access to food and medicine, but when his demands for repayment become unthinkable, Charlie has to take a stand. Conaghan (When Mr. Dog Bites) presents a compelling situation with no easy answers; it's easy to sympathize with Charlie's moral and ethical dilemmas, and the dichotomy between Old Country and Little Town could fuel provocative discussions. However, the generic, ambiguous nature of the setting and conflict-while striving for universality-can be distracting in its lack of detail, giving readers little grounding. Ages 14-up. Agent: Ben Illis, Ben Illis Agency. (Sept.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
School Library Journal Review
Gr 7 Up-Told from the perspective of 14-year-old Charlie, this book brings light to communities where teens are struggling under a repressive government or regime pressured by a larger neighboring nation (think current events in Ukraine or the Middle East). Set in a fictional modern world, this story features a teenager who befriends a refugee who moved from Old Country, the neighboring nation that bombs Little Town. Their friendship grows and is tested, most notably by school bullies and the corrupt gang leader Big Man. Charlie struggles with the lure of a gang leader who offers what he needs during a time of crisis, the social pressures of cultural prejudice, and even desire for the pretty girl at school. The slow-moving plot eventually crescendoes into an unexpected climax-readers will fly through the last portion of the book in one sitting. VERDICT Recommended for classroom discussion and for those interested in realistic fiction about a world in turmoil.-Seth Herchenbach, McHenry Community College, IL © Copyright 2016. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Charlie Law, 14, is desperate for freedom, knowledge, and adventure. Unfortunately for him, Charlie is also a resident of Little Town, a country controlled by the Regime, whose oppressive rules include no fighting, no littering, no asking questions, and no breaking curfew. Everything changes when Charlie meets Pavel Duda, a young refugee whose family escaped from Old Country, the land which borders Little Town. As their friendship blossoms, the boys help each other with typical teen struggles like fitting in, crushes, and bullies, while also learning to stand up to the tyrannical forces that control their lives. When Old Country invades Little Town, bringing with it bombs, soldiers, and a new, even more terrifying set of rules, Charlie and Pavel soon become entangled in the fight of their lives one that will test not only their will to survive but also their loyalty to each other. With its distinctly nonspecific settings, Conaghan's sophisticated and cleverly written novel will easily appeal to teen readers interested in dystopian, historical fiction, or war-themed stories.--Kuss, Rebecca Copyright 2016 Booklist
Horn Book Review
Charlie Law has very strict rules for living. You have to when you live in Little Town, a place with a strict Regime and an antagonistic relationship with bordering Old Country. Nobody leaves Little Town, and nobody leaves Old Country -- until one day the Duda family arrives as refugees. Charlie befriends the teenage son, Pavel, and tries to teach him how to keep his head down and remain unnoticed. But just as the Dudas come, Little Town begins to crumble -- literally and figuratively -- under Old Countrys encroaching military rule. Bombs begin to hit Little Town, and Charlie can no longer avoid the fray. He gets swept up into a violent plot against Old Countrys militia, led by a shadowy mobster who keeps Charlie working for him with promises of fresh food and inhalers for Charlies sick Mum. This dense, dark novel, lightened up at times with Little Town slang and teen-boy asides about cute girls, takes a while to pick up before the situation becomes desperate enough to keep pages turning. Unlike dystopian fiction set comfortably in the future, Conaghans dystopia, with its parallels to the Cold War and contemporary conflicts of ethnic versus political borders, is all too easy to envision today. sarah hannah gmez(c) Copyright 2016. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.