Seventeen-year-old Jack Ethan Dray has put his street-gang past firmly behind him, or so he thinks.
When he gets a shout-out from an old gang member and his ex-girlfriend starts acting as if they’re getting back together again, Jack worries his past is coming back
to haunt him.
Then Bonita Chang asks for his help to find her twin brother.
A brother that used to belong to a rival gang.
Jack knows that his only chance of being with Bonita is if he helps her.
But he’s no hero…until she starts acting like he is one.
Lorraine sets the tone for Karma Karma with these chilling opening words, ‘JED is gone, he is dead, has been for almost two years or at least... that's what I'd thought.'
Immediately there’s tremendous intrigue. You wonder straightaway, before the story’s even started, Who’s JED?
Lorraine skilfully jumps between two time periods throughout the narrative. When we first meet central character Jack, in the first chapter titled, Then: The Test, he’s completing his initiation into a gang called the Ride, by beating up long-time friend Arch. Which made me wonder at first if Jack had killed JED. If he can attack his childhood friend to join a gang perhaps he could also commit murder?
However, in the next chapter we skip forward two years to Jack's new life. He's straightened up, left the gang and has new friends. Things seem to be going well for him until a meditation session at school when Jack comes face to face with a different version of himself. A reflection in a river that looks like him but isn't.
In the chapters titled, ‘Then’ which are set in the past we learn that Sol, the leader of the Ride, nicknamed Jack JED. JED is Jack’s alter ego. Together JED and Sol became involved in unsavoury activities such as, robberies, terrorising a homeless man and racing trains.
In the present Jack thinks he’s left his gang life behind him until strange things start to happen, following the meditation. Jack has a dream in which he’s re-joining the Ride. A dream that seems real, although he wakes up at home in bed. When he gets to college later that day his ex-girlfriend acts like they’re getting back together and refers to the night before, when Jack was home alone.
When the girl he likes Bonita, asks Jack to help her find her twin brother who was a member of a rival gang to the Ride these episodes intensify.
I was truly hooked by this point and stayed up way beyond the witching hour to find out the truth. At one point I suspected Jack had a personality disorder but Lorraine keeps you guessing (and I won’t ruin it for you with any spoilers.)
As Jack’s life starts to unravel the big question is how is he going to salvage it before JED destroys everything?
If you love being fully absorbed in a book, love the feeling of your heart thumping in your chest as you turn the pages then come along for the ride with Karma Karma. You’ll be swept up by Lorraine’s vivid storytelling which captures what it’s like to be a teenager, gang-life, and explores the question of redemption.
(Please note the recommended reading age of Karma Karma is 16+ because of the language.)
Many thanks to Lorraine Cannell for letting us write a YA fiction book review of Karma Karma.
Lorraine Cannell is a writer of YA fiction. She lives in a Kentish Oast House with her husband, three children and two golden retrievers. You can keep in touch with Lorraine via her Facebook page or on Twitter.
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