Bec Kavanagh reviews THE RETURNERS

THE RETURNERS, Gemma Malley, March 2010 $17.99

THE RETURNERS starts out strong as Will, a boy who has lost his mother and is struggling to cope with his abusive father, starts succumbing to his increasing paranoia that he is being followed.

The ‘freaks’ as he calls them, watch him with expectant, hooded gazes and seem to know more about Will than they let on. Each night Will has horribly vivid nightmares of historical torture and human destruction and during the day he suffers from regular migraines.

However the story takes a disappointing turn about half way through the book when Will discovers who he really is. Gemma Malley’s first two novels, THE DECLARATION and THE RESISTANCE were incredibly well thought out, and a shining example of speculative fiction at its best. While The Returners does display the same imagination and probing nature, it seems all too short a novel to be able to deal with the many issues that are raised. Aside from the storyline of the returners themselves, there was the compelling arc of a local murder sparking already building racial tensions in the UK, and then the more personal story of Will’s own relationships with those around him, his father, teachers and friends, and his feelings about his mother’s death. Each of these plot lines started out strong but seemed to reach the middle where they ran out of steam and settled for a positive message at the end rather than building to the unsettling climax that I had anticipated.

This said, I continue to be enthralled with Malley’s questioning mind, and if anything, my biggest complaint with this book is that it is not long enough to be truly spectacular. It will be an excellent talking point for young adults, and will certainly spark some fiery debate.

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