The explosion that killed my parents happened halfway through Second Lesson. We all heard the dull thump, even though the Presidential Palace was fully two kilometres from school. Mr Chibei, our new teacher, was writing the traditional word for patriot on the chalkboard. He went still for a moment. The rest of us looked up at the windows. I don’t know what we expected to see – mightbe smoke? Mighbe the looping white trails of rebel mortars? – but all we saw were fat-bellied clouds.
We continued with our lesson. Mr Chibei wrote thunder, first in English, then in Zantugi, and we all felt relieved.
Son of President Balewo, and heir-apparent to the presidency, Sunday Balewo is at school, wondering why Holly (who he has recently kissed for the first time) is not at school today, when a bomb explodes in the Presidential P, killing both his parents. There has been a coup d’etat and General Mbuti has seized control of the country. Now it seems a bomb-carrying baboon is searching for him. Lucky for Sunday, he’s a talented athlete known as ‘Magic Feet’, because his life is about to accelerate out of control. He’s truly on the run. He must keep one step ahead of the bomb-carrying baboon as well as trying to work out who to trust in in the aftermath of the coup. People he has known all his life are suddenly strangers, and strangers become friends.
Three begins with a bomb, then speeds up to missile pace. The relatively naïve and sheltered 16 year-old Sunday takes a little while to realise that his life will ever be the same. He has no time to mourn his parents, or to consider what he will now do, because he has to make split-second decisions to stay alive. This is an abrupt coming of age, where the main character Sunday has not only to navigate the world beyond his palace upbringing, but he also has to establish his own trust parameters. It is no longer relevant to accept the parameters set by his father. Amid the explosive (sorry) action, Sunday faces very real moral dilemmas and a re-assessment of what he wants from his own life. Recommended for upper-primary, early-secondary readers who love thrillers.
Three, Justin D’Ath
Ford Street Publishing 2016
review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller