Karina Kantas, In Times of Violence. (2d ed.) Lulu, 2007. Pp. 110. ISBN 9781411633711. €11.00.

Reviewed by Craig Bellamy

In Times of Violence is a hard-hitting urban thriller about gangs, teenage lust, and violence. Set in a tough urban landscape, the story revolves around a teenage girl, Jade, and her struggle to belong. Jade is from a broken family and moves to the big city to escape her drunken mother. On arrival she befriends the Tyrants, a local gang with the ultra-violent Clay as the leader. Jade will do anything to belong, including taking Clay as her lover with all the sexual obligations associated with this.

This novel, Kantas' first, displays a sophisticated empathy for a young audience. Initially, given the non-judgemental tone and sympathy with the characters, this reader assumed that the novel was written by an adolescent, but although the author has a distance in age from the intended audience, she does not suffer a distance in understanding. Although the characters are at times a tad thread-bare, the realistic setting of the story, and the sympathetic character of Jade, renders the story more complete.

The narration also at times lacks detail, depth and pace, racing from one unfulfilling scene to another. But the violent scenes are rendered vividly with heads cracking on concrete, knives, blood, and murder. Although violence, juxtaposed with love, revenge, and belonging, is the central theme of the story, the brutality is neither glorified nor overtly condemned by the narration. Instead, through the vivid depictions of violence, the reader is left with a feeling of the fruitlessness of violence and the social conditions that breed it.

Given the recent publicity about youth violence in Britain, In Times of Violence is a story that will resonate with English readers. A self-contained youth culture, devoid of positive role models, and with little or no social mobility, will find its own rules and own ways of belonging. Gangs and violence are a consequence of a fractured society with limited opportunities for those trapped in their grip. Violence only leads to more violence and to its ultimate conclusion: death.

In Times of Violence is an entertaining and fast-paced novel, well worth reading by younger audiences and perhaps even those a bit older!

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