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Guns, No Roses

April 1996, no. 179

The Enemy You Killed by Peter McFarlane

Guns, No Roses

April 1996, no. 179

The good old days (bad old days?) of young adult fiction are gone. A couple of decades back it was impossible to imagine a reputable mainstream publisher producing a book for older children which has been supported by the Literature Board of the Australia Council and whose plot revolves around drug-taking (casual and accepted), violence, murder, abduction and rape. This is what The Enemy You Killed is about. The question is, does it more accurately depict real life than, say, an old-fashioned genteel novel like Swallows and Amazons? Perhaps it depends where you live. I’m not convinced that teenage gunplay with live ammunition is necessarily more ‘real’ than messing about with boats. At least in Australia. There is more than a whiff of the tabloids around the melodrama of The Enemy You Killed. It tells of a fifteen­year-old girl, Jules (Julia), who lives in an unspecified country town which lies close to a state forest dissected by a steep gorge. In this forest, mostly at weekends, many of the local young people have for many years been playing wargames dressed in combat gear and using not only air rifles and home-made explosives, but sometimes real combat weapons. The Tunnel Rats stalk The Rebels and vice versa, and a successful ambush is the ultimate thrill.

Jules has an oppressive past. When she learned some time back that she was adopted, she freaked, and hid out in the local hotel as a groupie with a heavy metal band before finally returning home. Then she formed a relationship with cold-eyed, unruffled bad boy Wade,

before finally getting her act together and finding happiness in dumping him for sexy Jammo, boxing champion and hunk. Jammo is the most successful leader the Tunnel Rats have had; Wade’s speciality is to act as the lone sniper.

Peter Nicholls reviews 'The Enemy You Killed' by Peter McFarlane

The Enemy You Killed

by Peter McFarlane

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