Review Blog

Jul 08 2013

The Debt. Instalment one: Catch the Zolt by Phillip Gwynne

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Allen & Unwin, 2013.
At last - an exciting, adventure series for teenage boys, set in Australia. Phillip Gwynne would have to be considered as one of Australia's pre-eminent authors for young adults. He experienced enormous success with Deadly Unna in 1998, which was made into a landmark movie Australian Rules. He has subsequently written a number of books which have been similarly well received, with 'a confetti of prizes'falling his way.
In this new series of 6 titles, Dom Silvangni, an elite athlete with dreams of success in running marathons, discovers a sinister family secret that dogs the male members of his family. It is, in fact, a debt to a secret Calabrian society 'like the Mafia, but not as nice,' and this debt requires six payments. As Dom learns his family history on attaining the age of 15, he discovers the reason for his grandfather's prosthetic leg - failure to complete his 'debt repayments'. It is now up to Dom to maintain his family's honour - and both his legs.
This series is a roller coaster of impossible tasks and improbable situations with many twists and turns. With some skill, more luck and the help of a few friends, Dom builds friendships and completes his task, but never in the manner anticipated. Cleverly written, with heavy doses of irony to keep readers amused, Phillip Gwynne creates a very authentic voice for his main character in a recognisably modern setting. Dom's sister is a teenage-hacker and his target uses Facebook to send coded messages. Evil characters are satisfyingly mysterious and evil and the young characters are nicely rounded and complex. This book is fresh, entertaining and very current. It is sure to be a hit particularly with young, particularly male, readers who are already reporting online that they are hooked early on and find it difficult to put down.
Diana Warwick

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