What I like and what I don’t like about my own book! On this page I dare to self-review Big Brother!*
Big Brother is a young adult novel, aimed for readers aged 12 and over, about Ash Tennant whose home and school life are a mess. His mother, Rhonda, is an alcoholic and drug addict, and his dad has left to take a job in the United States. This leaves Ash isolated in England. where he feels he has a duty to take care of Rhonda because she has no one else, despite his dad wanting him to join him in New York. When Rhonda drags Ash away from his home city of Bristol to a run-down Liverpool housing estate, where she was born and brought up, this leaves Ash feeling isolated even more. He doesn’t get on with the kids at his new school because he speaks with a different accent and his deafness makes him a target for bullies like the Jessop Crew.
The mysterious Big Brother appears one day out of the blue after Ash has a weird and frightening experience, involving the dead body of Rhonda’s latest pick up, and a mysterious dark cloud circulating her bedroom. The body disappears – Ash has no idea how – but he still has to clear up the mess, wash Rhonda’s bed linen and clear away the blood. Big Brother tells Ash he killed the man to help Ash out, because Ash hates Rhonda’s string of boyfriends. He demonstrates how he can change his shape and appearance to suit the moment; he was the cloud Ash saw. He was also the doctor who attended Lee Jessop in the hospital when Ash was there after falling in the pub cellar. For most of the time he appears as a tall, dark-haired young man, someone who wants to help Ash get revenge on his enemies, the Jessop crew, but Ash has no idea why. Big Brother calls himself Ash’s ‘avenging hero’, a big brother Ash wishes he had to stick up for him when the bullies start. Rhonda’s boyfriend is the second victim of Big Brother’s vigilantism on Ash’s behalf, the first being the hated Lee Jessop, whose demise has repercussions on his two mates.
The Jessop Crew is rebranded under the leadership of Lee’s younger brother, Lucas, who continues Ash’s life of misery. Big Brother intends to focus all of his attention on taking them out. The gang’s punishment begins through a dangerous Facebook game called Avenger, the type of game which normally wouldn’t be allowed on Facebook because it’s so violent, but Big Brother has made sure it bypasses all the rules, and it has an army of players who can’t resist playing it. Dammy MacIntrye is one of them. He’s not officially part of the Crew, but he becomes drawn into their bullying, and Ash finds out why he’s so scared of Big Brother.
Although Ash is desperate for the gang to be taken out, his emotions are in conflict. He doesn’t find out until near the end who Big Brother is and why he’s so keen to help him. Big Brother tells Ash he’s a ghost and haunts machinery, but he’s full of contradictions and Ash isn’t totally convinced he believes the ghost story. There are things Big Brother can do that don’t fit with Ash’s impressions of what ghosts are capable of. Ash is also disturbed by Big Brother’s methods of justice, torn between the joy of seeing the gang beaten and the violence with which he administers that justice. This is why he feels it would be right to try and get rid of Big Brother, but Big Brother is wise to this: ‘You can’t kill someone who’s already dead!’
What I Like
I like Ash, because he’s a complex.
Although he has his problems, and is a victim at home and at school, I made sure Ash was no shrinking violet. I thought that would be boring, too easy if you will. After all, he’s alone – and different – against a gang of bullies and an unfit mother. It would be too easy for him to give up. End of book! I wanted to portray someone with character, so I made him strong, able to stand up to Rhonda at least, even though she’s his mother and he feels he has a duty to be there for her. His hate for his enemies is natural, and he has enough in him to want the Jessop Crew to suffer, yet at the same time he has enough compassion towards them as human beings to realise that Big Brother is going a bit too far. What Ash doesn’t realise is, the hate he feels for all his enemies – his mother included – has generated Big Brother’s existence. This becomes evident at the end of the book.
I also like the confusion I’ve created. Ash is confused by Big Brother, by his intentions, and by his behaviour. Nothing is really explained to him until the end of the book, and so I wanted the reader to experience this confusion, too. The twist was intentional, and although some reviews question it, I’m glad that I kept that ‘hopping about’ going.
I also like the cover: Big Brother’s eyes have it! The hospital corridor scene reflects where much of the action is set.
What I Don’t Like
The book wasn’t long enough. Someone remarked, quite rightly, that I tried to put too much into a short book. I kind of agree with that, as the content warranted more page time. I found it a fairly tough book to write, and as it was dragging on – no excuses as to why, either! – I was desperate to get it finished and out there. Also there’s this conscious idea that I could make the book overlong. It’s knowing when to stop telling the story, possibly a failing of mine.
Following on from that, I think I could have made more use of the bullies, apart from the scene with the dog. All the reader knew was Ash was being bullied, but I showed no more than verbal aggression to Ash, I didn’t expand on it with action. It seems to be another failing of mine that I don’t make use of other characters, get into their thoughts and feelings. I tend to focus too much on the central character.
Overall, however, I am pleased with Big Brother and I’m glad I wrote it. It’s a story I had to get off my chest, but to make it more appealing I gave it the scifi/horror slant, and I felt that with the reviews I’ve received – even the critical ones – I have achieved what I set out to do.
* This review is for this site only
April 2, 2014