Warning: If you have not read “The Bombs That Brought Us Together” by Brian Conaghan, avoid reading this review if you don’t want spoilers. If you have read the book or don’t mind spoilers, go ahead and read it!
I’m back with another book review, and this time it’s “The Bombs That Brought Us Together” by Brian Conaghan! Here’s a summary so we know what it’s about:
“Fourteen-year-old Charlie Law has lived in Little Town, on the border with Old Country, all his life. He knows the rules: no going out after dark; no drinking; no litter; no fighting. You don’t want to get on the wrong side of the people who run Little Town. When he meets Pavel Duda, a refugee from Old Country, the rules start to get broken. Then the bombs come, and the soldiers from Old Country, and Little Town changes for ever.
Sometimes, to keep the people you love safe, you have to do bad things. As Little Town’s rules crumble, Charlie is sucked into a dangerous game. There’s a gun, and a bad man, and his closest friend, and his dearest enemy.
Charlie Law wants to keep everyone happy, even if it kills him. And maybe it will … But he’s got to kill someone else first.”
In terms of the plot, I thought it was very interesting on how it centers on the life of Charlie during wartime. Charlie often speaks of life “before the bombs” as being a lot more peaceful, including being able to go out more often on his own on errands all around town rather than be restricted to a few places. I think a lot of Charlie’s life in the story is meant to reflect what life for a child living in a war-torn area is supposed to be like, and I think it really captured it well. The dread that Charlie feels when he’s backed into a corner by the Big Man’s schemes is terrifying, as well as the very obvious contrasts Charlie gives about life “before the bombs” and life in the present time of the book.
Charlie’s friendship with Pavel being challenged by the people of Little Town also reflects a bit of how they aren’t receptive to people that are constantly bombing them. Even if Pavel and his family were obviously against Old Country’s government and came to Little Town to seek refuge and a better life, no one else would believe them simply because of the fact that they came from Old Country in the first place. Charlie is open-minded enough throughout the novel to give Pavel and his family a chance, and this comes as a huge blessing since Pavel is nearly beaten to death by other Little Town schoolkids. Had Charlie and Pavel not been friends, Pavel probably wouldn’t have lived to reunite with his sister again by the end of the book.
When it comes to the writing style of the book, there is no lack of description when it comes to the area that Charlie lives in, or the characters themselves if you look closely enough. However, the descriptions given to the main characters especially feel generic, though I feel like this is intentional on the writer’s part. Given how this is a book describing the life of a young teenager in a war-torn area, it perhaps is meant to give the reader the opportunity to try to reflect themselves in the characters, particularly Charlie and Pavel, and understand the situation and world of the book further. However, the book is incredibly dialogue-heavy, and it sometimes took away from the pacing of the book’s plot as they became mini info-dumps scattered throughout the book.
Overall, I’d rate this book 4 out of 5 stars due to it being so heavy with dialogue. However, it is an interesting read, and worth the time if you want some idea of what it could be like for a child living in a war-torn place.