Review: The Tell
Raze is a young teen with a pedigree heritage. His dad is a feared mafia boss and convicted felon. His older brother is keen to pursue an unlawful way of life; it pays tremendous dividends in the form of big booties after all. Being the son of such notoriety does not come without some major conflicts. For Raze, aka Rey Tanic, life is a continuous violent clash between his criminal family's expectations of him and his desire to break free from them and live a life less outlawed. An existence more normal and honest are Raze's simple dreams.
He tries his determined best to keep his head down at school and is fortunate to have mates like Ids and Candy on his team. They're a motley crew glued together by spray paint and an unspoken respect for each other. Each is battling their own struggle against an identity title they'd rather not have, except maybe Ids who is the brilliant cool comical chum throughout. One title they do revere is MCT - their graffiti tag. Despite the nominal illicitness of their actions, their 'art projects' enable them to work tightly together. Understanding and skill sets bond creating a solidarity that is tested to the limit when Raze's world begins to implode or rather explode.
After a dramatic prison escape by his father, Raze nose-dives into a series of near death situations, each more unexpected and brutal than the last. Not only are Raze's nerves shredded beyond recognition but so too are ours as his home and life is systematically destroyed. On the run, homeless and confused as to why his dad has suddenly abandoned the family, it's Raze's close affiliation with corruption that hones his instincts for survival.
It might sound completely implausible that a trio of 14-year-olds could riddle and dodge their way through a seething mess of iniquitous deception but Chatterton's razor sharp narrative style and cutting teen voice flip unlikely into, 'Can I come too!'
As Raze is sucked into a sinister vortex of nastiness, he and his friends each face their own baptism of fire; for Candy, being the daughter of the head of police is not as idealistic as it seems for instance. Chatterton loops brutal reality and disconsolate yearnings into complex character patterns. It's thrilling getting to watch these kids unravel and then find themselves again.
As a fan of Tristan Bancks' gripping middle grade thrillers, The Tell, ranks up there among them. The pace is just as frantic. The plot lines just as absorbing. Chatterton's style is courser and feels a lot more up close and in your face, however this keeps the robust thread of helplessness taunt and compelling. I was drawn in by the 'tell' tale signs, the form of body language that gives away a person's true feelings and although this aspect of the story was reinforced strongly in the beginning, further reference to it in relation to Raze's demise dwindled after that.
This niggling unrequited expectation aside (and a bit of a Hollywood ending that teasingly suggests a follow on book), The Tell really is an-edge-of-your-seat thriller that explores the seedier side of life rather spectacularly from a kid's point of view. It is this point of difference that makes this novel so memorable. In that respect it is the perfect younger reader's rendition of Boy Swallows Universe.
Title: The Tell
Author: Martin Chatterton
Publisher: Penguin Random House,$16.99
Publication Date: April 2020
For ages: 13+
Type: Young Adult Fiction
Buy the Book: Booktopia, Boomerang Books, QBD