The Enemy by Charlie Higson
Penguin, 2009. ISBN
(Ages 11+) Arran, Freak, Ollie and Achilleus are limping back to their home after a failed scavenging raid. They have trawled the area, finding nothing but a dog they killed when a pack attacked them. But they are missing one of the group, and must explain to the other children what has happened to Deke. The group at home, an old supermarket, fortified against attack, also has news: another youngster, Sam, was taken that day. Sam and Deke have one thing in common; they were taken by the grown-ups, the rampageous, disease ridden remnants of those left alive after the plague.
So begins this breathless story where things have got out of hand. Those under 14 are generally alive and fighting for survival, where survival means scavenging for food as well as being always on the lookout for the grown-ups who take them to eat. When a boy is rescued, he tells them of life at Buckingham Palace, which he and his group of kids have called their own. They need more though to keep the gardens going and he invites Arran's group to join them at the palace.
So begins a journey for the group, and that of their neighbours, to find a better place to live, a place of safety. But along the route they struggle to survive against the seemingly concerted efforts of the grown-ups. Some of their number is killed but they reach the palace with high anticipation. Here they find that the leader, David, is not all he seems, and when they are asked to kill another group of kids in his way, splits develop in the group.In one horrific scene, a fighter from each group, face each other in a duel to the death. Gladiatorial in its scope, the end result will see Arran's group stay or find somewhere else to live.
A winning story about right and wrong, survival and friendship, this dystopian novel will intrigue upper primary and lower secondary readers, intent on an adventure novel with an overlay of moral questioning. Higson wrote the Young Bond series of books, and this has a similar level of violence. A most enjoyable read, with echoes of The Lord of the Flies, it is the first in a series, and has its own website which will further excite the readers.