Split Second is an excellent young adult thriller set in a near-future London, where austerity measures have been extended to the nth degree and where extremist groups are popping up on every street corner.
When a devastating bomb goes off in a Saturday market Nat and Charlie’s lives are changed forever: Charlie’s mum is killed, Nat’s brother thrown into a coma. Nat, though, has an added worry: he’s sure that his brother, instead of being an innocent bystander, was actually the bomber, working for the group that claims responsibility: The League of Iron. Charlie is hell-bent on revenge for her mum’s death, Nat is desperate for answers to his brother’s betrayal, and soon they are each drawn into the dark underworld of London, of terrorism, and the blurred lines of justice.
With short, action packed chapters told from Nat and Charlie’s alternating points-of-view, it’s almost impossible not to feel like you’re racing the same clock our two protagonists are. Recruited by the mysterious EFA – English Freedom Army - a group purportedly trying to stop the violence being spread by terrorists such as the League of Iron, will they question what they’re being taught to do, what they’re being shown, or will their hate for the League spur them each on, blindly?
I got on well with both of the characters, my only niggle being Charlie’s complete refusal to be even slightly considerate toward her cousin – obviously I can see why the two of them grated and why Charlie responded the way she did, but I’d like to think if it was me in Charlie’s position I’d be a little more tolerant! But then, I’m not Charlie and haven’t experienced what Charlie does.
Sophie McKenzie also does a great job of keeping us guessing about the right and wrong sides – if there even is such a clear delineation as ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ – and about who is or isn’t trustworthy. And, of course, there is a mother of a twist at the end, which I kind of did and kind of didn’t see coming: she took my expectations for a dramatic ending and multiplied them. Expect twists, turns, a strong dose of betrayal, and a great British setting.