Blackout by Kit Mallory

Kit Mallory’s dystopian Britain is compelling and well-crafted, and definitely something to fear. For me, the divide was one of the most interesting qualities of the story when I started reading Blackout. I wondered how she was going to tackle a North/South divide, how she could possibly make sense of it being so brutal without it leaning too close to being unrealistic. I wanted to be able to picture it, to feel Britain slipping through my fingers as I was reading it. And she handles it brilliantly.

Here’s a quick synopsis!:

For 16-year-old Skyler, fear is a way of life.

Ever since the Wall split the UK in two, her survival as an illegal Northern refugee in the South has been a relentless knife-edge balance between evading the brutal, corrupt Board and clinging to her reputation as the South’s best hacker.

But Skyler’s sick of living in fear – and she’s got nothing left to lose. So when fellow Northerner Mackenzie unwittingly hands her a chance to exact revenge on the regime that destroyed her home and family, she seizes it.

She’s about to start a fire.

This book echoes brilliant dystopian themes, reminiscent of 1986, and the overwhelming power of a corporate body controlling the life of a nation. The brutality and corruption of the Board and her invocation of struggle, disobedience, fear make up a fantastic setting for the characters as they make their journey. I love the use of the overarching Board, and even though I was at first skeptical of the Wall and how it came about, the more I read, the more the book captured me. The past is released slowly to the reader, but with all the excitement of the present, with Skyler, Mackenzie and friends, it’s a welcome intervention.

The current (real) political climate in the UK feeds really well into this book. The past few years have been tumultuous to say the least, but Mallory’s use of Britain’s prejudices to fuel the story in this novel really made me believe in it. I believed in what they were doing, what they were fighting against, because so much of it is happening now in doses. Not only did I relate to the sense of Britain that Mallory captures, but I related to the sense of loss for Mackenzie and Skyler, the loss of the North and their home that kickstarts their defiance.

The scary part about reading this book is being able to picture it happening. That may be because I live in the UK, BUT, being a northerner living in the south, and recognising the prejudices that feed this narrative so well, it’s not hard to see the society that Mallory depicts and how it came to be. How the Board weened its way into power and played on the many prejudices and class divides in the country in order to manipulate and control masses of people. This is an incredibly humane novel, filled with emotion that both rivals the Board and plays into its power. People are troublesome and reckless and emotional, and Mallory knows how to write those characters.

I think what I loved most about this book, despite the dystopian society, the thing that captured me was the strength of the characters. Mackenzie’s OCD particularly struck me, his ability to overcome it and battle with himself, was a quality I really respected about this novel. So many books in the genre have strong main characters, but sometimes that’s not enough. To have a main character who recognises their weaknesses or mental/social fears and still tries to get through a world like this despite it, is much more admirable.

Blackout by Kit Mallory is out this Tuesday!

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