Saturday, 31 March 2012

REVIEW: HIT LIST by Jack Heath


HIT LIST by Jack Heath
Usborne

Ash and Ben are teenage thieves. With Ash in the field and techno-wizard Ben behind her at every step, they hunt down stolen items and return them to their rightful owners - coming across some of the country's most dangerous criminal minds in the process. When they find an SOS message from a captured woman they are led to the headquarters of the most powerful intelligence agency in the world. But someone else is looking for the girl - the deadliest assassin Ash and Ben have encountered. And now the Ghost is after them.  


Warning: this book will make you wish you were a top secret thief. 

You may find yourself:
  • Pretending that when you log into your computer you have to crack a secret code (even all you have to do is remember that your password is 'monkeybum')* 
  • Narrating what you are doing in a secret earpiece to your accomplice. (This is actually just talking to yourself, but no one has to know.)
  • Hiding round corners and doing unnecessary 'drop n rolls' (i.e. when someone has asked you to pass them a doughnut)
  • Saving people from imminent danger (even though when imminent danger actually occurs - i.e. a wasp - you suddenly remember you have 'something very urgent' to do and leave your friends to perish). 
But overall you will find yourself:

  • Wishing you were Ash and/or Ben

* PLEASE DON'T ROB ME

This is a book that gets your pulse racing and will have you in a page-turning frenzy to find out what happens. It reminded me a bit of watching a boxset like 24, where you keep going straight onto the next episode because you need to know NOW. I didn't guess any of the plot twists and spent most of the time wondering how the flippin' hell Ash and Ben were going to make it out alive. 

I read this guest post by Jack Heath on the Book Zone for Boys about writing for the video game generation and fiercely nodded - I am not a fan of the view that video games are in opposition to reading, when video games can have you getting involved in a world and playing the lead character in the story. Oh and they are fun. But Jack also points out all the things a book can do that video games can't (at least in their current formats). An all-round experience not limited to what you can see or hear, but to what you can imagine, intricate and imaginative ways of getting to the next part of the story and an interesting and fully-rounded main character that you want to get to know. 

In HIT LIST Jack Heath uses these elements to create a story bursting with surprises and originality - but keeping the thrills and blockbusting action from video games. Ash and Ben do some extraordinary stuff - dodging snipers in mines, creating hi-tech gadgetry for infiltrating a very famous intelligence agency - but remain completely believable teenagers. Much of the action centres around Ash, as the one doing the breaking, entering, stealing and dodging. But Ben is with her at every step, providing the necessary gadgets and maths and, most importantly, being her best friend. Their relationship, with its delicious combination of trust and tension, draws you in. But at key moments in the story you are kept from them - the characters disappear and then pop up unexpectedly with a plan in mind that you, the reader, have been excluded from. This is what keeps you guessing, perching on a seat edge, and, of course, turning the pages. 

Ooh and look at this video on Jack Heath's website where he talks about what makes a scary villain...

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