DISCLAIMER: I was offered a free copy of this book in return for a fair and unbiased review
‘I’m not a terrorist. I don’t want to hurt anyone. But this is our chance to fight back.’
Bex Ellman and her friends are in hiding, sheltered by the resistance. With her family threatened and her friendships challenged, she’s looking for a way to fight back. Ketty Smith is in London, supporting a government she no longer trusts. With her support network crumbling, Ketty must decide who she is fighting for – and what she is willing risk to uncover the truth.
What I thought
I’m going to do something a bit different with this review, as ‘Fighting Back’ is the penultimate in the series I want to talk about how the series has grown as a whole in the lead up to the final book next year rather than talking in specifics about this book, although I will mention things that happen in ‘Fighting Back’.
When I was offered a chance to review ‘Battle Ground’ in July (review here) I thought the idea of child soldiers and a post-Brexit dystopia sounded interesting. What I didn’t know then was just how involved I would get in the series and how much Bex and Ketty would grow into fully fledged characters and how much I would care and empathise with both of them, even though they are on opposite sides of the civil war and see each other as their biggest enemy.
When we first meet Bex she’s a child, kidnapped from boarding school to be the face of the government’s army in a pretence to show how much they love their country – that they would give up their teenage youth to fight for the freedom of others. In contrast Ketty is her trainer and isn’t afraid to use steel boots to teach them not to make mistakes again. Ketty is harsh and doesn’t allow for you to do less than your best or to not be selfish, the job of the ‘conscripted’/kidnapped is to protect the public, not themselves or their fellow soldiers so working as a team is not advised.
They both grow into much more complex women who are more aware of the manipulations happening around them and as much as possible try to turn them to their advantage.
I think there are a couple of things that mark this series as whole as different from other teen dystopia books. The first is that this isn’t technically a dystopia as people think of them, the story is set just before you pass the point of no return, most people are living a normal life (although without the internet/social media, with a government with no opposition, and the TV is just propaganda). As the books move on you realise that the point of no return is slowly being inched past – killing everyone in Leominster and blaming it on the ‘enemy’ is a big not good. It’s done really slowly and as Ketty and Bex leave the training camp, Ketty to London and Bex to Scotland, you’re able to see even more of the manipulations and just how deep the rot goes.
The other thing that makes it stand out is the fact the the first two books cover the same period of time but from the two opposing points of view, which means you are able to understand where they are both coming from. Books 3 & 4 alternate POVs and show that they are both trying to do their best in a bad situation and they are actually quite similar in their motivations. Bex has a family and had people to look after her while she was growing up, whilst Ketty had an abusive father and was forced to grow up early and see the darker side of society from a young age.
But they both all-or-nothing kind of people and are doing what they think is best, morally and for the people who are important to them. Bex has her groups of friends and her family and Ketty has just herself and Jackson (one of the other trainers who died in book 3). I think this is why they clash so much and see the other as their biggest antagonist because they can understand the other persons motives even if they don’t agree with them.
In this book Bex has to deal with the fallout from escaping to Scotland and joining the Opposition In Excile (OIE) to try and get her country back. However she’s realising that she is still a figurehead just like she was for the English government and she has little power. The lines between OIE and the government continue to blur for Bex and for the reader as they are almost as bad as each other. The OIE is performing terrorist acts and manipulating Bex and her friends to make them as sympathetic as possible. And I can understand why, it’s difficult to being down a near dystopia government without doing equally bad things but it always leads to the innocents being caught it the middle, the ends justifying the means and one bad act deserves another kind of mentality. And Bex is 16 when the series starts, at this point she’s 17. I know that at that age you’re able to enlist but it’s been proven that your mind is still growing at that point and that you are easily susceptible to manipulation. One of my youngest cousins is 16 and I feel like with Katniss and Harry Potter changing the world at that age we forget just how young that is.
Ketty is maybe 23/24 and I definitely wouldn’t be able to do any of the things that she does when I was that age, I wouldn’t be able to do it now! The strength that she shows is insane, and the fact that she’s able to acknowledge that she might be on the wrong side and have a look at her actions from a different point of view. That shows massive strength and something that is not often talked about.
Why I read it
I was offered a copy of ‘Battle Ground’ in July in return for an unbiased review and since then I’ve been saying yes to the following books as soon as the offer appears.
This is book is a great set up to what I can only imagine will be an amazing finale with the two women being forced to face each other. I can’t wait to see what happens and which side wins in the last book. Neither the government nor the OIE have my faith and Churcher has given us amazing characters in a world that is scarily similar to our own. The UK might not be at this point yet but it’s not difficult to see how we could get there, and I hope I have the strength of Bex and Ketty to be able to make some difference and try and make my voice heard.
Am I glad I read it? Yes
Did I enjoy it? Definitely
Would I read it again? I might reread books 1-4 in the lead up to book 5 next year
Would I recommend? Yes, but obviously start at book 1