Crossing the Line by Gillian Philip
Bloomsbury, 2009. ISBN
(Ages: 13+) I found this a harrowing read, the tension mounting as each chapter goes by. Even though the reader knows that a boy is dead, the alternate sections, Then, telling of the past, and Now, relaying what is happening as a result, does nothing to unclench your muscles as you read. The bullying and terror tactics of some of the students, including the hero of the story, unsettled me, and lately I have read some gruesome books for adolescents.
Going to high school, Nick makes the wrong choice. He sides with one boy in a fight and so becomes part of the gang that goes around bullying and thieving from younger kids. On one occasion he says no, and becomes instead an outsider, a boy with a geeky friend, but when that friend is bullied again, a second person steps in, Aidan, his sister's boyfriend, who is killed. His sister, Allie now has an invisible friend called Aidan, who she speaks to all the time, setting a place for him at the table, ensuring he is with the family on outings. Aidan's mother cannot accept that Allie still does this, a year after his death, and asks Nick to step in.
Told in alternate sections, the story trickles out information of the situation at school, the groups, the bullies and those who try to stop it. It is familiar ground, but the way the story is told is electrifying. Told from Nick's point of view, he also tells us of his battle scared family, ill equipped to cope with what is happening, also trying to manage an aged, demented gran living with them. This book gives a background to some of the violence we read of in the papers, where youths use knives as their weapons against others.