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Five vs. Five Review

Five vs Five coverAuthor: Jodie Sankey
Publisher: Self Published
Review By: David Stonehouse

Available now from Amazon £8.25 paperback, £3.08 Kindle buynow1

Five vs Five is a complex young adult thriller with many a twist and turn. The adventure follows Amy Telford, a teenage girl who is desperate to live a normal sort of life despite the fact that the world seems determined to throw chaos at her all the time. Her family is pretty dysfunctional, she’s surrounded by irritating kids who won’t leave her alone, and there are two guys, Jesse and Jayme who are both competing for her attention. Add to all that there’s a nasty voice in her head encouraging her to lash out with acts of extreme violence and it becomes clear that Amy is anything but the normal schoolgirl she wants to be.

The first third of the book pans out as a sort of comfortable teen drama. Amy has arguments with her self-absorbed mother and irresponsible father. School life is marred by gossipy pain-in-the-arse neighbour Natasha and nasty school slut Monique, whose nose is put right out of joint when the cool guys start ignoring her in favour of Amy. Then there’s the boys, who are fun when everything is light and flirty, but not so great when their attentions become more aggressive.

Sankey throws everything on its head when everything takes a much more dangerous turn. The boy she thinks she can trust turns threateningly stalkerish and things suddenly descend into vicious and unexpected violence. This is the point when the book really takes off. Amy’s family and friends have been keeping secrets from her, and the revelations that come out now change her life forever. Amy isn’t a normal girl – she’s a genetically modified weapon, a leftover of an abandoned military programme to create super-soldiers and assassins. The voice in her head is part of the treatment and a lot of the people around her have got them too.

Once the secret is out Amy can’t stay loose in the population any longer so she is whisked off to a training facility for people like her. As her skills are honed she learns a lot more about the grim reality of being a man-made assassin, and the secret lives of some the people who have watched over her all her life a revealed. Before too long the assassins are given the opportunity to compete against each other and show off their murderous talents in the sinister Five Vs. Five competition of the title.

It’s a first person narrative so everything hangs on the presentation of Amy. Fortunately, she’s a completely convincing character. Her dialogue is sharp and witty. She’s full of believable teenage anxieties about boys, clothes, friends and so on. The ‘normal girl’ aspects are so convincing from the word go that it’s not too much of a stretch to accept the more mental and disturbing stuff about her when it starts coming to the fore. The other characters are well drawn and believable too. Slutty Monique is so vile that you do actually want Amy to pummel her face in, while the complex male characters are well judged enough to make Amy’s mixed and confused emotions understandable.

As for the action, and there’s quite a lot, it’s satisfyingly abrupt and matter of fact. It’s these sections that highlight Amy’s modified behaviour, as she drops comfortably into a level of brutality that would make most people reach for a bucket. Her complete lack of conscience about her enemies’ injuries sits uncomfortably alongside her oh-so-normal inner debates about her outfit or whether to straighten her hair.There’s also something particularly creepy about the idea that normal people are going about their everyday lives alongside born and bred killers. Any face in the crowd could be one of these assassins. It’s a nightmarish thought.

For a young writer this is a remarkably assured piece of writing. Sure, some passages feel a little bit overworked, but there are also some really attractively written sections, full of vivid images, and the accuracy of her characterisations is spot on. I would have like a bit more detail about the military research that led to the teen assassins, and the systems that are now in place to manage them alongside the normal population. However, there’s an argument that withholding details adds to the atmosphere of tension and mystery, so I’ll bow to the author’s wisdom on this.

Jodie Sankey has crafted a fast moving and exciting piece of young adult fiction that will ring true to its target audience. It will appeal to anyone who has enjoyed teen thrillers by writers such as Suzanne Collins or Anthony Horowitz. There’s also plenty of scope for sequels and spinoff stories with this set up. Amy’s story might have been told but there are plenty more young assassins out there with adventures to explore.

If you enjoy it please review it and support it. Jodie Sankey is a fresh and talented new writer who deserves to reach a wider audience.

David Stonehouse

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