Title: Liccle Bit
Author: Alex Wheatle
Published: March 5th 2015
Genre: Young Adult
Length: 217 pages
I received a copy of this book through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Book Blurb (via Goodreads):
What’s worse than hiding a secret? Liccle Bit’s about to find out…
Venetia King is the hottest girl at school. Too bad Lemar is the second shortest guy in his year. Everyone calls him Liccle Bit, and his two best friends, McKay and Jonah, never tire of telling him he has no chance with girls. Things aren’t much better at home. His mum is permanently hassled, his sister a frustrated single mum and his dad moved out years ago. Liccle Bit wishes he could do something – anything! – to make life better. A new phone would be a start…
As a new gang war breaks out on his estate, Lemar discovers that South Crongton’s notorious gang leader has taken an interest in him. Before he knows what’s happening, he’s running errands. When he puts his own family in danger, Liccle Bit will be forced to question his choices. How can he possibly put things right?
Dealing with the unfortunate reality of gangs and gang wars in local estates, Liccle Bit offers an insight into how easily a child’s life can take a turn for the worst through a simple interaction with a gang leader. A look into the world of gangs from the perspective of a young teen, Liccle Bit doesn’t shy away from the violence that surrounds the situation and offers a unique look into how terrifingly quick a life can change.
Lemar is a kid, of Jamaican descent, living in an estate in Crongton. There’s a war going on between the gangs of the North and South, and Lemar suddenly finds himself under the watchful eye of Manjaro, the leader of the South Crongton gang – but also the father to Lemar’s older sister’s baby. When Manjaro asks Lemar to take some clothes to his sister for the baby, he can’t understand why she flies off the handle at him. When he’s warned to stay away from Manjaro, Lemar can’t understand why. Until he’s asked to deliver a package and someone turns up dead the next day. Now Lemar finds himself caught up in the gang world, trying desperately to get back out. His art has been picked for a special gallery show and the girl he’s been crushing on wants him to draw her picture. Things are looking up for him, until Manjaro steps in and demands his help in holding and delivering suspicious packages.
Now Lemar’s secrets are building and the stress is about to bury him. He doesn’t want to hurt his family, but he’s not sure how to keep them safe anymore. A tense novel bringing the very real situation lots of young teens find themselves in to light, Liccle Bit makes you stop and think. A wonderful cast of characters bring this story to life and draw you in.
I found this novel started slowly but built in tension around the middle. Once you hit that point, it’s hard to put the book down. Following Lemar as he tries to work out how to keep his life in balance, this book draws you in for the ride right to the end.
This book is available at the following links:
About the Author
Alex Alphonso Wheatle MBE (3 January 1963) is an award winning black British novelist of Jamaican heritage and has been described as one of the UK’s most exciting writers.
Wheatle spent much of his childhood in a Surrey children’s home. At sixteen he was a founder member of the Crucial Rocker sound system and his DJ name was Yardman Irie. He wrote lyrics about his observations of everyday Brixton life. By 1980 Wheatle was residing in a social services hostel in Brixton, South London. He witnessed and lived through the 1981 Brixton riots, its precursors and aftermath. Wheatle was briefly incarcerated following the Brixton riots. While serving his sentence he read authors like Chester Himes, Richard Wright, C. L. R. James and John Steinbeck. He once built speaker boxes for local sound systems to help him through unemployment.
He has since been called upon to talk on the subject of the Brixton riots, most prominently in the 2006 BBC programme “Battle for Brixton”. His early books are based on experiences from his life living in Brixton as a teenager and his time in social services care.
Wheatle was awarded London Arts Board New Writers Award for East of Acre Lane.
In 2008, Wheatle was awarded the MBE for services to literature in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list.
He now visits schools, colleges, universities, libraries and prisons facilitating creative writing classes and performing inspiring speeches. He has also narrated an audio guide to the streets of Brixton for soundmap.
He is a member of English PEN.
Wheatle’s debut novel, Brixton Rock, was adapted for the stage and performed at the Young Vic in July 2010.
He wrote and performed UPRISING, a one man play based on his own life at TARA ARTS STUDIOS, Wandsworth, London.
Wheatle lives in London.
You can find out more about Alex on Twitter.