The only world 15-year-old Mickey “Monkey” Gibbon has ever know is one devoid of normal family structure, a world where strict segregation is enforced and men are merely breeders and providers, women nurturers who raise families. Following the Oil Wars in the 2030s, when resources became so scarce that private ownership of cars was outlawed and human waste began to be used in sustainable energy production, women realised the need to bring rampant male aggression under control. A society was formed where men could be providers, certainly breeders, but they could only ever work for women and rarely occupied positions of authority.
Such is the world that best-selling author Echo Freer has created in her dystopian novel Toxic Treacle. It is a world in crisis though as gangs of young adolescent boys run riot through the neighbourhood, clearly immune to the charms of loving, nurturing and acceptance advocated by the ruling classes. Don't be mistaken though, this is an authoritarian regime where every move is monitored and filmed on CCTV and those who are caught crossing the line are sent off to the Farm (a reeducation centre) or worse.
There is trouble brewing in this dystopia though, with people disappearing daily but Monkey is oblivious to all of this until his best friend Tragic disappears, leaving behind just one mysterious clue.
Toxic Treacle is an exciting, fast paced novel that will draw young readers in. The author has created an intriguing and believable inner-city landscape and the gangs, names, tags and lingo were spot on.
In addition, Echo Freer grasps teenage emotions and maturity in ways that few authors do lately. The friendship between Monkey and Tragic was well written and Tragic's need to connect with Monkey by leaving behind breadcrumbs was absolutely plausible. Likewise, the growing feelings between Angel and Monkey, coloured by their different levels of maturity, was really well done.