The Enemy by Charlie Higson. ★
I would recommend this book to middle school boys, but I cannot see anyone else enjoying it. Really, it’s a bunch of kids killing dubiously described zombie-like adults. There’s not much more to be said about the plot. I have come up with seven faults of this book. (1) overabundance of telling instead of showing, (2) failure to depict believable emotions, (3) weak female characters, (4) failure to make me care about the characters, (5) lack of overarching plot, (6) abundance of unanswered questions, (7)strange shifting POV
1. I’m not sure if Charlie Higson has ever heard the phrase, “show, don’t tell,” because he never shows anything. All thoughts, emotions, and character motivations are clearly stated by the characters. He adds to this with huge info dumps. If you don’t believe me, just read the first chapter.
2. The problem with the emotions ties into how he tells instead of shows. For me, the worst part was when he tried to give his characters romantic feelings, but he’s just all around bad at it.
“The both felt awkward,” (page 6). Wow, I wonder how these two characters feel? Well, apparently, they feel awkward.
“She loved him,” (page 44). This would be a whole lot more effective if we could figure out for ourselves how she felt about him. Really, we shouldn’t need to be told.
3. I don’t like the depiction of girls in this book. The attitude seems to be that the girls are there to look after the little kids and leave fighting to the boys. Leadership is a bit more equally depicted, but is likewise skewed. Here’s a quote that bugged me so badly that I bookmarked it so I’d be able to find it for the review:
“Blue runs around and shouts and waves his spear, but it’s us sisters who really rule the roost. The kids, though, the felt safer with a man… well, a boy, in charge. A fighter.” (page 234). I don’t really think anything needs to be said about this, but… “sisters”? Really?
And don’t even get me started on Maxie, the main female character. It seems like she’s supposed to be depicted as strong, but she’s always breaking down into tears. Seriously, the one character whose always crying is the girl. She did have one moment of strength near the end, but then she goes right back to relying on the boys to tell what to think and do. I also hate this assumption that girls can’t fight and are good for nothing but looking after children and crying.
4. When a character dies, and I don’t feel anything, I know it’s a problem. When multiple characters die and I don’t feel anything, I know its a big problem. When I realize that I don’t care if any of these characters actually live, I think it’s time for me to stop reading.
I didn’t stop reading The Enemy, but it was a close run thing. If I hadn’t been so bent on writing a review of the thing or so hopeful that it would eventually improve, I wouldn’t have finished.
These characters are all basically names and maybe at most one character trait. I wondered why some of them where even there. Say, Arran for example. (view spoiler)
5. What’s the point? We have most of the characters trying to get to Buckingham palace, but then there’s separate story lines about Small Sam running around and this boy who chooses to stay behind. I was expecting these to all connect in some way at the end, but they didn’t. There isn’t any build up to a climax. The story is just one thing happening after another.
6. Most of my questions concern the zombie like “grown ups”. Why do some of them appear somewhat intelligent, while the rest are just stupid? This could be answered in a sequel, but I bet this one never gets answered: Why are the grown ups so focused on eating the kids when they could just eat each other? There are a few (maybe two) sections written from their POV and we just see them focus on their hunger and the kids. It’s not some sort of dead lust for life type thing, because the adults are described as being alive. Just dead and cannibalistic.
7. The POV of this book was really annoying. One paragraph we’d be inside one characters head, and we’d be seeing someone else’s thoughts. If you’re going to skip around, can you at least do it in some sort of orderly way? Like say, by chapter? Or even section? The POV is a mess.
So, like I said before, don’t read this if you’re not a middle school boy. Even then, I would hesitate to recommend it. Lets face it, there are loads of better books out there.