Breakers by Doug Johnstone #bookreview #Breakers @doug_johnstone @OrendaBooks #IndieCrimeCrawl

Wow. Just wow. In a summer full of feeling somewhat let down by many of this year’s hyped books from major publishers, it’s an indie book that makes me feel this way. A wreck, gutted, yet somehow strangely hopeful. As opposed to the hyped book I’ve just finished that could not keep my attention for more than a chapter or two (seriously, I found myself pulling out weeds instead, not a great sign), Breakers grabbed me by the throat from the first page of the first chapter and I could not tear myself away. Moreover, I didn’t want to. 

Right off the bat it’s crystal clear where we’re at: at the fringes of society. Tyler, little more than a teenager himself, is the sole carer of his seven-year-old sister Bethany (Bean). Their mum is an addict, booze, pot, heroin, whatever she can get her hands on, and they have an older half-brother Barry and half-sister Kelly (same mum, different dad) who live in the same building. They live in poverty and make a living from crime. I’m sure there are loads of poor people who are upstanding citizens, who do their best every day, who work or maybe can’t work, and for whatever reason have problems making ends meet. Tyler is trying to be that guy. But with a mum who spends every cent she gets on drugs and alcohol and an older brother who practically forces him to come robbing houses with him, there’s really not that much he can do. On the bright side, the burglaries mean that every now and then he can hide some cash from his brother so he can buy food or other necessities, or he can nick some trinkets for Bean, like a stuffed panda bear, or things like soap. I couldn’t not feel for Tyler and especially Bean. They’re good kids, smart, deserving of a better mum, better siblings. I wanted to jump between the sentences, and hug them both. They’re stuck in this dead-end situation, there’s no hope for the future. I hated seeing a seven-year-old so jaded. Bean is a smart girl, Tyler wants to protect her from seeing their mum in drunken or drug-induced stupors but Bean knows what’s what and no girl that age should have that kind of smarts. And then a job goes wrong: while Tyler and his older half-siblings are robbing a fancy house, the owner comes home and Barry stabs her. It turns out that the woman in question is actually the wife of Edinburgh’s biggest crime lord and Tyler finds himself caught between a rock and various hard places: his coked-up brother, the police and the crime lord. And then he meets Flick, a rich kid, but not quite the goody two-shoes that she’s meant to be. She brings hope, hope for love, hope for some kind of salvation, but what when Barry finds out?

The crime aspect of Breakers is truly chilling. Yes there is violence and lots of it, but it isn’t cheap, it isn’t overly gory, it’s just very realistic and that makes it worse. I’m sure everyone knows someone whose house has been broken into. Coming home and finding your house broken into, your stuff taken, that’s bad enough, but just imagine coming home just a few minutes too early, catching the burglars red-handed.
Barry scared the living daylights out of me. He’s creepy enough when he’s sober but half the time he’s coked up and all the time he’s completely off his rocker, and the way he treats his siblings is just ugh *shudders* (what an eloquently worded review this is turning out to be, isn’t it ?)

Breakers is gritty and dark and harrowing, and it broke my heart and it make me feel very lucky to be where I am, on the one hand, but also kind of like an entitled rich kid on the other (while I’m nothing of the sort, trust me). However, Breakers is not only dark and confrontational, it’s also about love. About a boy with so much love for his little sister, doing whatever needs to be done to protect her, psychologically as well as physically, and that little sister loving him back. (Doug Johnstone really did an amazing job portraying Bean, I love that girl to bits!) It’s about finding love and compassion where you’d least expect it, it’s about forgiveness. It’s about being in the gutter but looking at the stars, and maybe, just maybe, there is some hope for the next generation. 

I loved this book so much. I finished it in a day and wanted to dive right back in the second I’d finished it. I have tried to express how deeply I feel about Breakers and it characters, to explain its layeredness, its awesomeness, and I feel like I failed miserably. I’ve never been to Scotland, I’ve never been in a criminal environment, but I was there with Breakers.

Very highly recommended.

I read Breakers for the #IndieCrimeCrawl. Go check out these amazing indie publishers!

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