By Sophie McKenzie
Published by Simon and Schuster
ISBN 978 1471115974
Sophie McKenzie certainly knows how to put readers on the edge of their seats from the word “go”. On the first page of her young adult novel Split Second, teenager Nat is running through the streets, desperately searching for his elder brother, who he suspects is about to plant a bomb in the middle of a busy London market. Will he find the bomb by three o'clock, the time it's due to explode?
McKenzie throws us straight into the middle of a terrible situation and keeps us there. Novels for teens rarely begin with an opening as tense as this. As Nat searches for Lucas, he notices a girl arguing with her mother. And then the bomb goes off.
They don't yet know it, but in that moment Nat and the girl, Charlie, are suddenly, permanently, connected. Charlie's mother is killed in the explosion, and Nat's brother is left in a coma. Nat was right that Lucas was in the market, but was it he who planted the bomb?
Both teenagers have to deal with the devastating result of the attack.
Nat's family is broken apart by what has happened to Lucas, and Charlie has to go to live with a distant aunt and uncle. Their lives can never be the same again.
Charlie is so lost in grief and fury that she can't focus on getting her life back on the rails. Nat's suspicions that his brother belonged to a terrorist cell take over his every waking moment, and all he can think about is learning the truth. He's been receiving online messages that seem to confirm his fears, but he knows he can't speak to anyone about this suspicion until he has more proof.
McKenzie uses the clever device of alternating chapters between the two lead characters, telling the story from the two perspectives. When Charlie moves to a new school, she befriends a girl called Jas - who just happens to be Nat's sister. The circle is finally complete.
As Charlie gets to know Nat, she starts to suspect he was responsible for the bombing. How can she deal with that appalling idea?
Readers will root for both Charlie and Nat as they sort out their demons.
The only weakness in this excellent novel is the inclusion of the words "The story continues in Every Second Counts" on the last page. McKenzie has let readers down by succumbing to "sequelitis" and not finishing the captivating story she started.
John Millen can be contacted on MillenBookshelf@aol.com