The Blurb On The Back:
Bored? Confused? Desperate for something – anything – exciting to happen?
So is Hector Coleman. (And, yes, he does also have the worst name in history).
But unlike you, Hector is hanging from a windowsill five metres up, and his life is about to change in unbelievable ways.
If he doesn’t die first.
Want to find out why? Open this book. Hector will tell you. He’ll tell you that the impossible …
Just got real.
A comic-book-inspired adventure with a graphic-novel twist that will make you grateful your life is not as weird as Hector’s …
The Review (Cut For Spoilers):
15-year-old Hector Coleman lives with his older brother Jason and his parents in the small English town of Gilpin whose sole claim to fame is that it’s at the geographical centre of the United Kingdom. When Hector’s best friend Max and his whole family disappear without warning before the end of the school holidays, Hector and Jason break into Max’s house to find out why. All they discover is that the family left in a hurry and Max’s younger sister had written in her diary that she’s scared …
It isn’t long before Gilpin’s teenagers undergo strange changes that give some dangerous abilities and others unpleasant conditions. Hector’s own condition is the weirdest of them all – his future, middle-aged self has returned to observe what’s happening and give him stupendously unhelpful clues about what is about to happen to him. With the help of second-best friend Josh, Asha (who Hector fancies) and Silent Grace (Asha’s best friend) he decides that it’s up to them to save the town and maybe, even themselves …
Mark Illis’s YA novel (with illustrations by Bimpe Alliu) is a so-so take on superhero fiction in that it has some interesting ideas but the characters were all a little cookie cutter (although I believed in Hector’s relationship with Jason) and bland, the plot lacked urgency and pace and the “graphic-novel twist” unfortunately added little to the text because there simply aren’t enough of them to be meaningful.
Hector’s an okay character – I believed in his relationship with Jason and his regret that they’ve become distant and his concern for the way in his Jason seems to be drifting and I also believed in his relationships with Asha and Grace and Josh. However because we don’t really see Hector interact with Max (instead we’re told repeatedly that he’s Hector’s best friend) I didn’t really buy into the strength of their bond (and in fact, I thought it was a little weird how willing Josh was to accept that he was number 2 in the friend stakes without challenge or comment). Josh, Asha and Grace were, to me, a little cookie cutter – there to tick boxes (Asha the fiery, good looking love interest, Grace the silent and arty take and Josh the troubled Goth) rather than to exist in their own right.
The pace didn’t have enough punch for me – there’s a peculiar lack of urgency to the actions of Hector and his friends and the device of Hector’s future self didn’t really work for me – mainly because he doesn’t offer up a huge amount of information which means that the dialogue between them tends to go around in circles. I did enjoy some of the ideas – notably the explanation for what’s happening to the teenagers and why, although I wish that Illis had taken the page time to expand on it some more.
Bimpe Alliu’s illustrations were fine but there weren’t enough of them to make a significant impression and unfortunately they didn’t really add much to the story and I think it would have been less distracting had they not been there.
The book ends with a set-up for a sequel but I have to say that I wouldn’t rush to check it out, although I probably would check out Illis’s other work.
Thanks to the Amazon Vine Programme for the review copy of this book.