Kick by Mitch Johnson

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Cover illustration by Oriol Vidal

Budi has a dream. He’s going to be just like his hero, Kieran Wakefield, and play for Real Madrid. Until then, he’ll keep stitching the boots in the factory that pays his meagre wages.

While playing football with his mates after work, one miss-kick of the ball shatters not only the window of The Dragon, the most dangerous man in Jakarta, but his dreams too, putting everyone he loves at risk. Unless he can find a way to do as The Dragon says, his future doesn’t just look bleak, it looks considerably shorter too…

Kick is a fast-paced, adrenaline fuelled, action packed story with a conscience. From the very first page until the last, we are immersed into the slums of Jakarta, where dreams keep the difficulties of day to day life at bay. The stifling heat, constant hunger and oppressive poverty are brought vividly to life, whether in the streets, the factory or at home with Budi’s family.

The characters leap from the pages. Budi’s exuberant hopefulness is balanced by Rochy’s more realistic view of their lives. The Dragon is deadly, but I found the factory manager far more sinister, never knowing when his Rotan would swing out in anger. My favourite was definitely Budi’s grandma, with her wealth of stories to cheer him up and keep him hopeful.

While this is a work of fiction, it’s a sad reality that there are many, many children like Budi in our world, trapped in poverty, with no way out. Mitch Johnson doesn’t shy away from this, but manages to balance the darkness of his characters’ lives with hope for a better future.

An excellent debut – gripping, thought-provoking and packed with heart, hope and the healing power of stories. I can’t wait to read whatever Mitch does next!

Great for fans of The Bone Sparrow, The Other Side Of Truth and My Brother’s Secret.

Do make sure you check out my After School Book Club Blog Takeover tomorrow, with a guest review from a pupil, and An Interview With Mitch Johnson.

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