Split Second is a YA book set in the near future when the Government’s austerity measures are destroying Britain, leading to social unrest and terrorism. It’s very similar in tone and themes to much of the other YA fiction which is around at the moment, with teenagers teaming up to take violent action to challenge authority and being manipulated by malevolent forces while the world around them disintegrates.
The start of the book is very similar to the last YA book I read (Echo Boy) with the lead female protagonist, Charlie, orphaned following an attack and going to live with her rich uncle and spoiled cousin. I’d say 50% of YA protagonists are orphans; Harry Potter has a lot to answer for!
The themes of terrorism, social unrest, revenge, and the mess teenagers can get themselves into by trusting the wrong people also reminded me of Malorie Blackman’s fantastic Noughts and Crosses series, although the romance is not as strong in this book. It is also similar to the other Sophie McKenzie book I have read, Blood Ties, in which a boy and girl have to go on the run from the authorities against the odds and don’t know who they can trust. I expect fans of that series would also enjoy this book.
So, this book treads familiar YA territory and I was not at all surprised by the way the storyline played out. It was clear from the start that the main characters Nat and Charlie are way too willing to take things on face value and are going to get themselves into trouble. However, this is a very easy read and it’s fairly enjoyable watching them getting there.
The book uses the device of narrating from alternating points of view and ends most chapters on a mild cliffhanger or revelation, so the plot is very fast-paced and doesn’t get bogged down in detail. I thought it took too long for the inevitable romance between Nat and Charlie to get going. Half-way through the book they had not so much as held hands, but I guess McKenzie is saving up the relationship for future books in the series.
The cover is truly awful. The girl in the image looks too young and it looks like a misery memoir rather than a teen thriller. In addition, there is a huge spoiler for a very significant event which happens towards the end of the book on the inside of the front cover. It’s a really odd choice of design and I definitely would not have picked it up if I had not received the sequel to read, but I’m happy that I did. The end of the book is a good set up for the next in the series.