This is a really enjoyable YA dystopian novel, set in a near-future UK where the government has been replaced by the dictatorial Board. The Board has successfully used “us and them” politics to demonise supposed drains on the economy – including, apparently, the entire country north of Birmingham. A massive wall has been erected to keep those parasitic Northerners out of the South, although most of the North’s population has died anyway, after the Board shut off all supply lines. Life in the South is no picnic either, marked by harsh poverty, authoritarianism, and a fearsome criminal underworld. The gloomy, oppressive atmosphere is well-depicted over the course of the book.
This is a heavily character-driven novel, which is always my preference. Some of the characters are stronger than others (crime boss Daniel Redruth, in particular, seemed particularly one-note), but the relationships between them, usually characterised by tensions about how trustworthy anyone really is, are quite good. This is also a dialogue-heavy novel (which is fine by me), and there are regular flashbacks to show the characters’ formative experiences and how the genocide of the North came about. Some of the other reviews have complained about the flashbacks being confusing, but I didn’t feel that way.
The main thing that I was a bit doubtful about was the romantic subplot. The problem may have been that there was so much else going on in the novel that it didn’t feel like the relationship had enough time to develop properly; most of those scenes felt a bit disjointed to me.
Overall, I’d thoroughly recommend this book. It’s not perfect but it is very good, with timely commentary on the increasingly common “us and them”-style rhetoric.