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Ally Kennen

Ally Kennen
Marion Lloyd Books
May 2007
Ally Kennen pens her novels with sheer adrenalin. ‘Berserk’ is an incredibly fast-paced, taut thriller that will literally have readers teetering on the edges of their seats, breathless and hearts-pounding as they anticipate what is to follow…

Not so much a teenage miscreant as an individual for whom the education system and social structure around late childhood has failed to secure and keep safe, Chas, together with his best friend Devil indulges in joy-riding of the most extreme and immoderate variety when hot-wiring a heavy goods vehicle. Consequence of this night is the pair’s eventual placement in a remand home.

Running parallel to this, Chas has been writing to a prisoner on Death Row who has been accused of murdering a child. In order to be accepted onto the letter-writing programme, Chas pretends to be his mother, thereby concealing his age, a deception that later has dire consequences.

Throbbing at the heart of this gritty, urban tale is a wealth of ideas. It is the social interaction and the minutiae of power-dialectics amongst adolescent characters that Kennen observes with such accuracy.

Unlike with ‘Beast’, Kennen’s prodigious debut novel, the narrative and thrust of ‘Berserk’ feels at times a little too out of check and control. The convoluted relationship between Lenny Darling and Chas and Devlin’s families, in addition to the obfuscated messages within the letters he sends when imprisoned stretches credibility to belief and beyond. Scale of many of images in the novel – the severed finger, the hedonistic consumptive feast on the lorry and the high-altitude climax – serve to eclipse many of the like-clockwork mechanics that underpin the narrative. This lends the work an air of many-a-Hollywood blockbuster, high-in-energy, huge-on-impact, yet ultimately disallowing the time and reflective space for its idea base to unfurl to the height of its potential.

The approach negates the careful teasing out of character and motivations that made ‘Beast’ instantly so remarkable and refreshing. Its consequence is a legacy of discursive, high-impact images without the context, continuity or coherency that would have elevated this novel to being exceptional and, if addressed, will lead to Kennen’s becoming one of the most exciting new writers for the young adult market.

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