Author: Gemma Malley
Release date: UK Paperback 1st Feb 2010
Target audience: 13+
UK Publisher: Bloomsbury
Summary from Amazon:
Will Hodges' life is a mess! His mother is dead, he has no friends and he thinks he is being followed by a strange group of people who tell him they know him. But Will can't remember them ...at first. And when he does, he doesn't like what he can remember. While Will is struggling with unsettling memories, he learns that his past is a lot deeper than many people's, and he has to find out if he is strong enough to break links with the powerful hold that history has on him. This compelling novel, set in an alternate future, challenges readers to consider the role we all have to play in making our society, and asks how much we are prepared to stand up for what's right.
The Returners is a dark and twisted story of a not too distant future.
Will is an insular character who has spent years trying to shut out his emotions. The book begins with him sitting by a lake watching the ducks and remembering his mother’s suicide. The Returners has two strands running through it. Firstly there is Will and his troubled past. He is struggling with his life, his toxic relationship with his father, his anger at the loss of his mother and his own self-imposed loneliness. Then there is the society in which Will lives. Britain in 2016 is an angry place. Malley explores what might happen if the recession goes so deep that we enter economic depression and the conflict that this ignites in people as they look for someone to blame for their suffering.
The questions and social conflicts that Malley explores in The Returners are ones that I often find myself thinking about. What gives us a right over territorial boundaries? Who says I’m entitled to more opportunities, wealth and prospects just because I was born in a certain place? How can we show our angry unemployed workforce that immigration is a positive force for our country? And does our country really belong to us anyway? I loved that The Returners probed some of these political issues without ever feeling like I was having a lesson in politics.
Back to the character of Will and how he ties these themes into a story which also explores the notion of reincarnation. Will has dark and torturous dreams. Ever since Will can he remember, he has been seeing people that have a vague familiarity. He calls them freaks. The people who seem to recognise him and that he recognises but yet doesn’t know at all. Will seems psychologically traumatised by his past but he doesn’t open up and discuss the paranoia that troubles him. He keeps it locked up tight inside.
The two parts of this story weave together in a twisting tale of violence and corruption. The Returners is certainly not a feel good read. It is almost a study of inner darkness. Yet it is an important book. It doesn’t skirt around the important issues of our time. It is contemporary, brave and compelling. This book is for readers who like their reading gritty and challenging.
Thanks to Bloomsbury Books for sending the book for review.
Read for the British Books Challenge 2011