Tag Archives: Sophie McKenzie

Review of ‘Every Second Counts’ by Sophie McKenzie

ImageThanks to NetGalley and Simon and Schuster for the ARC of this book.

This book is a new addition to the ever increasing YA sub-genre ‘militarised teenagers save the world’. It is the sequel to ‘Split Second‘ and picks up protagonists Nat and Charlie on the run and joining up with a resistance movement in order to try to expose evil politician Roman Riley, before he wins the upcoming general election.

It’s very similar to the first in the series, in that it is told in the first person with short chapters alternating between Nat and Charlie’s point of view. As with the first book, I found this device made the plot fast-paced and it was an easy read. I think fans of Sophie McKenzie would definitely enjoy this book as would fans of Malorie Blackman, Simon Mayo and Robert Muchamore.

I really enjoyed sections of the book where Nat and Charlie use the skills they gained as part of their EFA training against members of the EFA. Although I also get frustrated by the frequency with which Nat and Charlie naively trust people that they shouldn’t and fall into traps. They do not seem to have learned enough from their experiences in the first book. For example, Nat’s sister Jas is kidnapped and he doesn’t even stop for 2 seconds to think about why the kidnappers would hold her in a safe house which he knows about. He just blunders in and, of course, gets caught.

I was really pleased that this book offered a satisfying conclusion to the series. I would have been annoyed if it had ended with uncertainty and I had to wait for another book in the series to watch the baddies get their comeuppance.

However, I felt that this book had the same flaws as the first book. Most importantly that the romance element is not strong enough. I was hoping to watch Nat and Charlie’s relationship blossom through this book, however early on in the book they are split up (geographically) to follow two different plot-lines and we don’t get scenes with them together again until the last quarter of the book. So the romance definitely takes a back-seat and isn’t very effective.

A couple of elements of the language also irritated me. There is repeated use of “and I” where “and me” should be used. For example “Uchi hurried Spider and I through the kitchen”. I hope this is just something that has been missed in the editing and will be corrected in the final version of the book. Also, Charlie repeatedly refers to her “birth father”, you can’t have a birth father, your mother gives birth to you. The terms are “birth mother” and “biological father”. These are small nit-picky things but I find they jar you out of the flow of the story.

Overall this is an enjoyable, satisfying conclusion to the series, which is very easy to read and which fans of YA fiction, who like to read about teenagers taking on the malevolent forces of authority, will enjoy it.

Review of ‘Split Second’ by Sophie McKenzie

ImageI picked up this book because I received an advanced reading copy of the sequel from NetGalley and thought I should probably read the first in the series before I try to review the second.

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.