It’s not often that I get to review a book for a fellow East Anglian, but I have always found that this predominantly rural region (in the east of the UK) punches well above its weight in terms of talent and creativity, considering its relatively small population.
‘Battle Ground’ is the first in a six-book YA series by Churcher, the others of which are due out later this year and next. It is well-written; there were no typos or grammatical errors that smacked me between the eyes, as there so often are with advance reader copies (though isn’t ‘battleground’ one word?). Churcher also has a lovely touch at twists and turns, which meant my usual predictions didn’t always come true. The characterisation is pretty good, too, though it might have been nice to have more British slang used in order to round off the characterisation and military themes, especially as the main characters and protagonist are enlisted teenagers; however, I am aware of the danger of making the novel too set in the ‘current day’, and potentially restricting the novel’s appeal to a more international audience.
Set in a near-future UK, post-Brexit and Scotland’s subsequent departure from the union, ‘Battle Ground’ looks at the ease with which populations are led in their thinking and behaviours by a self-serving, elitist government, and at how a society’s liberties can be conveniently removed or, more depressingly, freely given.
It is easy, in these days of a rising global far-right and open racism / fascism (let’s not normalize it by saying ‘alt-right’, like being a bigot is a perfectly reasonable viewpoint to have), to see the similarities between this speculated dystopian near-future and where our path seems to be currently leading us. Indeed, fascism itself isn’t even the end aim – merely one utilised tool from a kit which includes nationalism / unfounded superiority, and fear / hatred of ‘the other’, to enable increased removal of personal freedoms and democracy in exchange for ‘security’ in the light of a real or imagined threat (or a manufactured one). The totalitarianism is the target; the electorate and / or the perceived enemies are actually apathetic bystanders, unwitting dupes, well-meaning patriots – and the deaths on either ‘side’ are simply seen as collateral damage by those either already in power or looking to attain it.
It’s some heavy stuff for the intended Young Adult audience to have to take on board, though none the worse for that; anything that engages the young (and the future voters / leaders of our world) politically and philosophically, gets much admiration and respect from me.
I hope to read the rest of the series, as I am very interested in seeing how prescient Churcher’s depictions turn out to be, and I will be keeping an eye out for more of her work.
For its intended target audience, I’d give ‘Battle Ground’ 5*
Sixteen-year-old Bex Ellman has been drafted into an army she doesn’t support and a cause she doesn’t believe in. Her plan is to keep her head down, and keep herself and her friends safe – until she witnesses an atrocity she can’t ignore, and a government conspiracy that threatens lives all over the UK. With her loyalties challenged, Bex must decide who to fight for – and who to leave behind.
I do not get paid for blog tours and this is my honest review.