Alan Gibbons, Raining Fire

Indigo, 2013. ISBN 978-1-78062-027-5

Alan Gibbon’s latest novel is a chilling exploration of gang culture and gun crime. The setting is a run-down estate. The outlook for the young men growing up there is bleak. Life is dominated by two rival gangs. They rule by fear.

Unlike his brother Alex, who has low qualifications and finds it hard to get and keep jobs, Ethan has prospects. He is a talented footballer, and is destined for great things. Even so, he finds it hard not to get pulled in by one of the gangs. He is shown a gun at fourteen, and struggles with its attraction and its power. A training programme in the States with his football club opens his eyes to different ways of living. The daughter of the family he stays with there makes him see that intellectual endeavour as well as sporting prowess is worthwhile. But football remains his dream, and his chance of escape from the grim existence on offer on the Green. Then he injures a leg. The dream starts to fade. Alex has by now been drawn in to the increasingly violent gang feud. He is facing a long prison sentence, and needs Ethan’s help. Ethan has to make terrifying choices. Whatever he does, he risks enormous danger to himself and everyone who is important to him. His oldest friend accuses him of betrayal, and is badly beaten up because of his actions. And what is Ethan going to do with that gun that has come back into his life?

After a gripping start, this novel takes a while to get going, but the second half is fast-moving and tense. Lots of teenage boys in particular will enjoy it. A thriller that provides an insight into street violence while never glamorising it.