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The Trap by Alan Gibbons | Book Review

If I am not mistaken, this is my first ARC review here on this blog (it’s very exciting). Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for allowing me to get my hands on this book and review it for you all. For the past couple of years, I’ve been really trying to get my hands on some books that my brother can read. He’s 16 and he is, as my old English teacher would say, a reluctant reader. I’m always on the hunt for a short book with a fast pace and interesting plot that I can recommend to him. This one intrigued me and so I thought I’d test it out. In hindsight, it definitely wasn’t the book for me, but I can understand it’s appeal.

As I mentioned, this book was very short and took me only a few hours to read. The language is easy to understand and so is perfect for a younger YA reader (maybe 14-16… but I hate putting age ratings on books).

Although the book does contain 2 timelines with frequent flash forwards and flash backs, it was clearly marked and thus easy to understand. It definitely didn’t make the story feel disjointed, but rather padded it out nicely.

This is where everything starts to go downhill, I really didn’t like the 3rd person narrative. For me, it just felt a little too impersonal. I don’t understand why it was written this way as Gibbons is writing about something he doesn’t have first-hand experience of. However, I kind of wish it was a little more Martian-esque, with first-person narrative from Mijad and then third-person sections from Kate and his family.

Although on the surface, this story seems to be quite diverse, focussing on a Muslim family, I wouldn’t be in a rush to use it for your diversity bingo. At the end of the day, Gibbons is a teacher with no evidence of first-hand experience. For that reason, to me the book felt obviously fictional, the events (in places) are extremely dramatic and overdone. I think a first-person narrative would have really helped with this, it would have given a greater dimension to the story rather than a war-time thriller.

It’s always difficult to write about events that are so fresh in the public mind and that are still affecting so many and dominating the media. There are many people who will not see this book as informative, but rather as propaganda. Personally, I felt there could have been more effort to normalise more of the Muslim characters in the book. In reality, all of the Muslim characters we meet are involved with terrorism in some way. Perhaps, an effort to show the wider Muslim community would have helped with this.

The ending of this book is the one thing that I can honestly say I was pleased with. It was necessary to show that neither party was blameless and that it is not only the search for jihad that has trapped Majid. Bravo!

Overall, I would probably rate this around a 2.75, so I’ll round it to a 3. It didn’t make me angry or aggravated, like some YA does, but I also didn’t find it especially eye opening or informative. I will try to get my brother to read it and hopefully convince him to write a little bit about what he thought.

The Trap comes out tomorrow here in the UK, and if you have your own reluctant reader (be it a child, younger sibling or friend) it might be worth a try!

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