Author: Jim Carrington
Genre: Realism / Crime / YA
Target audience: 12+
UK Publisher: Bloomsbury
Joe and Ash are best friends. Ash is the leader, Joe the one who follows. Then one night after a party, Joe and Ash come across a holdall, seemingly abandoned by the side of the road. They open it up ...and find GBP20,000 in cash. Of course they're going to hand it straight to the police. Aren't they? Or is all that money just too tempting? Whoever has lost it won't notice if a bit goes missing, will they? And that is precisely when the trouble starts ...Jim Carrington has already established himself as a fine writer for teens with his debut novel, Inside My Head. With In the Bag, he shows how horribly easy it is for two teenage boys to make a car crash of their lives, through an unlucky combination of being in the wrong place at the wrong time and making a handful of wrong decisions.
In the Bag is a story about two ordinary teenage boys whose lives change and take a darker turn after a typical Friday party when they find a bag containing £20,000 and instead of taking it to the police, they keep it for themselves.
Ash and Joe are sixteen-year-old boys from a small town. Ash is the reckless one, the one who comes up with plans and executes them. He is the leader of the two boys. Joe is more reserved and careful, but no matter their differences, Ash and Joe are best friends. They are normal teenagers with insecurities, as well as school and family problems. Truth be told, nothing special ever happens to them. Joe has a nice family, good parents and a younger sister who is prone to bickering with him and teasing her brother. Ash's parents are absent a lot, working late hours and neglecting their only son. They quarrel often and Ash has learned to escape their problems by hanging out with his mates, drinking and smoking weed.
When they take a shortcut through the woods after a Friday party at the local rec, Joe and Ash find a bag containing £20,000 in cash, lying not far away from an empty crashed car. They decide to keep it at Ash's house until morning, but once morning comes, the need to do the right thing evaporates and their dreams of having new high-tops and a new bike suddenly want to become true. Ash feels great, but Joe feels guilty - yet even Joe begins to enjoy having so much money at his disposal. However, very soon reality kicks in and when they hear the news that someone was murdered in a burned-down building in their town, they instinctively know that the bag and the murder are connected. This is when the trouble starts for Ash, Joe and their mate Rabbit who became involved in the mess purely by accident. On top of fearing for their lives, Ash must also handle the drama that ensues in his family.
Carrington handled really well both the teenage life and the thriller aspect of the novel. On the one hand, the reader learns about Ash's and Joe's personal life and typical teenage troubles and insecurities that feel very realistic and authentic. Especially Ash is going through a crisis in the novel and that crisis was handled very well. The narrative alternates between Joe and Ash and the author captured their teenage thoughts deftly, making the story very vivid and entertaining, as well as tense to read. On the other hand is the thriller aspect. The two teenagers become involved in a dangerous business unknowingly and I do believe that something like this might happen. In their youthful enthusiasm, Ash and Joe grabbed an opportunity for having fun without thinking about the consequences and the novel shows well how every action has consequences that must not be overlooked. In the case of Ash and Joe, the consequences are very dangerous. Both parts of the novel are quite suspenseful on different levels and draw the reader in easily. Towards the end, I found myself sitting on the edge of my chair and that is definitely a compliment.
I also liked the language of the novel. It is genuine; a British teenage slang is used and while I like good grammar, good grammar would have been a bit unnecessary in this story because teenagers don't speak RP, I believe. This sort of authenticity made the novel a really enjoyable read.
My one complaint is about the ending. Things are not rushed; they evolve at a nice pace. But the ending is too abrupt and leaves matters unresolved. I still had many questions when I turned the final page, but they were not answered and I do believe that an extra chapter would have been just perfect to conclude these matters. Sadly, everything is left open and unless a sequel will follow (which I doubt), that is not a good ending.
All in all, however, this is both and entertaining and suspenseful story, containing teenage drama and crime. This is a gripping teen novel that should delight fans of young adult fiction spiced up with some crime.
Becky says: Irena, this certainly sounds like an interesting anf thrilling read. I guess we can all see why the boys were tempted to keep the money. It is a shame that you felt the ending left too many unanswered questions. I love the sounds of the British slang and the boys voices though. It is such a hard thing to write authentic dialogue. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this book.
Both our thanks go to Bloomsbury Books for sending the book for review.