Author: Catherine Barter
Published by: Andersen Press
Publication date: 1st June 2017
Pages: 384, paperback
Genre: young adult, contemporary, political
‘In three years I will be able to vote and I will still have less power than I did at the moment that I saw that email, which was such a tiny thing but look what happened.’
Fifteen-year-old Alena never really knew her political activist mother, who died when she was a baby. She has grown up with her older half-brother Danny and his boyfriend Nick in the east end of London. Now the area is threatened by a bomber who has been leaving explosive devices in supermarkets. It is only a matter of time before a bomb goes off.
Against this increasingly fearful backdrop, Alena seeks to discover more about her past, while Danny takes a job working for a controversial politician. As her family life implodes, and the threat to Londoners mounts, Alena starts getting into trouble. Then she does something truly rebellious.
A searing, heartbreaking coming-of-age tale for fans of Lisa Williamson, Jenny Downham and Sarah Crossan.
Troublemakers is one of those books I have been hearing about for a long time, and looked forward to reading. I eventually managed to read it a few weeks ago, and I absolutely adored it – the writing, the characters, the plot. This book is totally FAB.
I thought that Alena was really well characterised – I was her age not too long ago, and I thought she was written in such a realistic way. She had just the right amount of angsty-teenager and annoying-younger-sister to make her seem like a real fifteen-year-old, but not so much that she became annoying. This was so lovely to read, as I think that often teenagers are portrayed as a little too mature in YA.
I loved Nick, and whilst I know he’s supposed to be slightly too good to be true, I thought he was wonderful and it broke my heart a bit every time Danny or Alena doubted him. I didn’t like Danny at first, but by the end of the book it is clear the story of his grief is being told alongside Alena’s story, and I thought he was a really complex and well-written character. I found this theme of grief very interesting, especially as it manifested itself so differently in both Danny and Alena. Family was also such an important part of this book, and I loved how Danny, Nick and Alena are shown to be a whole, loving family.
Another thing I enjoyed about Troublemakers was the moral dilemma presented throughout the book in the form of Jacob Carlisle, which in itself prompts thinking about how much one needs to stick to their political beliefs. Not only was it interesting to see the slightly different approaches of both Danny and Nick, but the book also showed Alena’s own political views developing, in a very subtle way.
This book made me want to go on a women’s march. Or open a coffee shop. The writing was truly excellent, and it was bursting with important topics, yet it never seemed like it was too much at once. I really think this is a book that should be read and enjoyed by all ages – if you are a fan of YA, or any fiction with a political edge, I think this is the perfect read.