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Berserk by Ally Kennen
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Berserk

by Ally Kennen

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Review from www.googlebooks.com - 12/02/2012
You'd have to be crazy to make friends with a murderer. When 15-year-old Chas finds a website asking people to write to prisoners on Death Row, he decides it would be funny to get letters from a murderer. He writes to an inmate, pretending to be his mum, but the chilling replies are not at all what he expects. Chas's own wild escapades eventually land him in a young offender's institute, where he learns that his scary penpal has been released. And is heading for England to find him...
  nicsreads | Feb 11, 2012 |
Opening Ally Kennen's Berserk is a little like jumping into a freezing-cold river. From the very first page, the writing positively assaults you. The brisk, stream-of-consciousness-style prose is somewhat reminiscent of Paul Jennings – but with ADHD and without the descriptive language. Like a freezing-cold river, however, you eventually get used to it. Kennen takes advantage of Chas' conversational narration to keep the pace of the novel up, jumping from scene to scene with refreshing impatience. There are places where she fast-forwards as much as two weeks without even starting a new paragraph; perfect for a target audience of reluctant male readers around Chas' age. Kennen seems intent on pulling in the crowd who would much rather watch an action movie than read a 'boring' book, not only with her writing, but also with her choice of story.

Berserk's jacket is cleverly designed to communicate the key plot details as quickly as possible, to entice browsers to stop and read a few pages. Readers will be disappointed, therefore, to find that Kennen's killer premise (pardon the pun) plays a comparatively minor role for most of the novel. Berserk is not really a thriller – if anything, it feels more like an exposé on the harmful effects of prison life on the troubled youth of today. Our protagonist spends quite a lot of the novel incarcerated, which, plot-wise, doesn't amount to much. It would not surprise me if most of the targeted teenagers read less than half of this book before getting sick of waiting for the promised psycho-murderer mayhem, and throwing it away.

Berserk's main attribute, then, becomes its ability to empathise with its audience – which, truth be told, is not all that impressive. Kennen demonstrates only a blunt understanding of the workings of a teenage boy's mind. Chas has his moments of realism, but they are equalled (if not outweighed) by Kennen's mistakes; moments where Chas' thoughts or remarks are grounded in the wrong age group, or even the wrong gender.

Berserk may have some enjoyably tense and gripping scenes, but they come too late to turn this story into the thriller it purports to be. It's not a bad book, but it would be far from my first choice for a reluctant teenage reader. ( )
  SamuelW | Jun 16, 2009 |
Fast paced and a real page turner. ( )
  AAlibrarian | Jan 22, 2009 |
Story about teenager Chas and his criminal activities. He ends up in a really grim young offenders prison, gets out, gets a girlfriend and does his exams. And there's this man from death row that he writes to who ends up dating his mum - and then the trouble really starts. This is a fun and exciting book, treading a careful moral line around Chas's criminal tendencies, but he is an essentially likeable character and you root for him right to the end. ( )
  LibrarianAbi | Oct 15, 2007 |
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Chas becomes a penpal to someone on Deathrow, who is later released and infiltrates his life with a grudge from the past to settle.

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