by Jonathan Trigell
At 24, Jack is released from prison, and enters the real world for the first time since he was locked up as a 9-year-old. He’s been set up with a job, a place to stay, an ‘uncle’ to help him adjust to freedom. He’s also been set up with a new identity, because ‘Jack’ is known to the public as Boy A, one of two 9-year-old boys convicted of killing a little girl.
There are many parallels with the Jamie Bulger case in England in the early 1990s, and that’s not accidental. When Bulger’s killers were released, theoretically having paid their debt to society, society was savagely angry. So it is in Boy A: Jack is tragically grateful for the ordinary things like air and light and conversation, but simultaneously haunted, hunted, and finding how desperately hard it is to live below the radar. How impossible it is to live a lie and still be a friend, a boyfriend.
Stigma is a painfully limiting thing to live with – sufferers of HIV, mental illness , even
lung cancer patients struggle with stigma continually. If more than stigma, you’re also carrying the taint of evil, as Jack discovers, life is unbearable. And society is unbearable.
More than a brooding story of growing threat, growing vulnerability, however, Boy A is an exploration of how benign neglect can twist a childhood; how bullying can make savages out of children; how idealism can be its own worst enemy. It’s a challenging and amazing read.
Click here to buy this book.
(Review by Heather Parker)