In a very near future, two teenagers in a scarcely functional London are caught up in terrorist plots.
Nat and Charlie live in an England with an economy just a touch worse than the real thing: Austerity cuts are closing hospitals, shrinking police departments, and leaving countless people unemployed and hungry. As the novel opens, Charlie, fighting with her mum in the free food line, barely survives the terrorist bomb that claims her mother's life. Nat knows about the bomb but—convinced his brother, Lucas, is the bomber—tries and fails to stop the attack in time. Now Charlie lives with relatives, and Nat (who hasn't reported his suspicions about Lucas) needs to understand his now-comatose brother's motivations. How had cheerful, peaceful Lucas fallen in with the racist terrorists of the League of Iron? In a series of brief first-person chapters, Nat and Charlie cope with the bombing's aftermath. Nat's attempts to infiltrate the League of Iron lead both teenagers into dangerous plots against the people and government of England (and into conversations with thugs who make violent, despicable, racist threats). Despite their attempts to defeat the villains, everything goes to hell just in time for the heavily foreshadowed reveals to set up the sequel. Though the action-packed suspense is up to snuff, heavy-handed Americanization leaves both characters and setting bland and flavorless.
Lucky U.K. readers get cliffhangers and toothsome prose, but at least Americans still get the thrills of the shooting practice and bombing plots. (Thriller. 13-15)