Highlights in the Charts
The Young Team by Graeme Armstrong
Review by Natalie Joyce
Redolent of growing up in North Lanarkshire, Graeme Armstrong’s debut novel is a visceral and hard-hitting work of Scottish fiction, depicting a community who are underrepresented in literature. It has been referred to as the Trainspotting for a new generation; Armstrong’s novel is gritty, heartbreaking and funny drawing from his own personal experiences within gang culture from a young age.
Written in the North Lanarkshire dialect, The Young Team follows Alan “Azzy” Williams and his pals as they grow up in Airdrie, immersed in the gang culture of violence, drink and drugs. The use of this dialect enhances the impact of the novel and this vernacular is familiar to me as I grew up with it and enjoyed hearing banter and sayings that I hadn’t heard in years. Azzy takes us through his experiences, from bloody clashes with the “Young Toi”, to self-discovery and life changing choices.
The novel covers many social issues such as chronic poverty, male mental health, addiction, violence, murder and suicide—all sensitive subjects, but ones which are very much prevalent in the book. It highlights the implications of gang violence, not only on the individual, but on the community, and the destructive nature of the “young team”.
Armstrong’s acclaimed debut is to be developed into a TV adaption by a BAFTA-winning director Adrian McDowall and is a well-deserved achievement for this remarkable writer. It will be exciting to see how the story translates from book to screen and its depiction of a marginalised group of society who have been misrepresented and underrepresented on screen.
The Young Team is a masterpiece of Scottish literature, a novel of cultural importance which Armstrong delivers impeccably.
The Marriage by K L Slater
Review by Emma Ferguson
The blurb alone for this book made it impossible not to pick up and it did not disappoint. Jesse was killed by his childhood best friend Tom with a single punch outside a nightclub when they were both eighteen. Tom was sentenced to ten years in prison; Jesse’s mum, Bridget, was left distraught after losing her only son and her closest friend in Tom’s mother, Jill, both at the same time. But ten years later, Bridget has a new life, funded by the charity she set up in Jesse’s honour—she is even getting married. To whom? The very man who dealt the fatal blow to her son. Impossible not to doubt Bridget’s potential ulterior motives, Jill cannot stop herself from getting involved in her son’s relationship with her former best friend, leading her to uncover secrets that go back years.
This split narrative between past and present, as well as between different characters’ perspectives, creates consistently well-rounded characters which is when for a book with so many key figures. Slater explores and interrogates varying family dynamics, highlighting the difficulties within the home that go unseen from the outside. Although the characters are by no means all likeable, this only makes the story more engaging as it progresses. They link and are interwoven in interesting and unexpected ways, which kept me guessing as to how the story would end.
Slater does not go for the obvious conclusion, which I appreciate given how heavily hinted at it was for the opening section of the book. Whilst I don’t agree with the ‘psychological thriller’ label it has been given, it is still a chart worthy and an easy read.