Revolver by Marcus Sedgwick (2009) 220 p.

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I can’t remember exactly where this was recommended to me; it’s not the kind of thing I’d normally read, since when I do dip into YA it’s usually science fiction or fantasy. Revolver takes place in an isolated cabin somewhere north of the Arctic Circle. A boy named Sig is alone in the cabin with his father’s corpse; he died yesterday after falling through thin ice, and Sig’s sister and stepmother have gone to get help. And so the boy is all by himself when a hulking, menacing stranger shows up and claims to have “business” with his father. Sig’s father’s revolver is in the storeroom next door and as he gradually realises that the stranger is a very dangerous man, his thoughts stray towards the hidden gun.

Revolver is very much a story about guns; about their mechanics, about their physicality, but also more broadly about the ethics of the use of weapons. It’s an interesting book to read – and for younger people to read – at a time when gun politics are increasingly on the agenda in the US. (Although Sedgwick is British.) There’s an open question throughout Revolver about whether guns are “good” or “bad,” one which Sedgwick rightly declines to answer. Instead, it’s a thought-provoking story about the problematic ethics of self-defence, symbolised by the very simple problem of a boy facing down a menacing man in an isolated location. Sedgwick explores the matter thoughtfully and maturely, while also telling a decent story.

Revolver isn’t really a book I’d recommend to adults; my admiration for it comes more from analysing its success as a piece of YA fiction, as a book which tells a story first and foremost, but also imparts important ideas and tries to get kids thinking. I wasn’t so much enjoying the book as I was analysing it, and nodding along with it. But it’s precisely because of that that I think it’s a solid piece of YA fiction which deserves a place in school libraries.

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