This taut and involving teen thriller is all the more impressive for its economy: just eight chapters and a mere fifty pages take Rob from the beginning to the end of his bad day, and the reader through a range of emotions.
This is a bad day that should have gone really well for we learn that Rob has been planning it to the last detail. He is on his way to meet Tessa, a girl he has been talking to online for so many hours he feels like he’s known her forever. He gets out of the house successfully, ie without his mum noticing, but once the safety of home is behind him the tension begins to mount. Rob is well aware of the potential dangers of internet relationships and conscious that he’s never actually spoken to Tessa, or seen her. As he travels to meet her by bus, train and underground, the day is counted down in minutes on timetables and station clocks, and the sense of threat increases palpably. Fellow bus passengers stare and laugh at him – a teenage boy’s worst nightmare – but there is real danger at King’s Cross where Rob has a genuinely frightening encounter with a stranger. And after all this, Tessa fails to show up.
Graham Marks is an expert at describing the teenage male, and Rob is engaging and convincing, proud at the way he oils the squeaky hinge to ensure a speedy getaway, scoffing biscuits by the handful, idly wondering why he split up with his last girlfriend, his mood swinging from despair to triumph when he realises Tessa hasn’t stood him up after all.
This is one of four new thrillers in Barrington Stoke’s range of novels for teens so while the interest level is perfect for its intended audience, it has a reading age of eight. The other new books are Wolf by Tommy Donbavand, The Nightmare Card by Catherine Johnson and Pirate Attack by Paul Dowswell.