“Don’t answer the door!” barked Dad from the kitchen, the washing-up subs popping on his grimy white vest.
“Mr Tambo!” a voice boomed from outside. It was deep. I imagined the owner of that tone strutting in the park with a rhino on a leash. “We know you’re in there! Let’s be adult about this, Mr Tambo. Let us in so we can sit down and talk about your repayments. This is not going to go away.”
I breathed in a dose pure fear. Why are we in so much deep debt? Dad’s working. Why won’t he give them he full score on what’s going on? Dad dried his hands on the dishcloth and then draped it over his shoulder. He looked at my older brother, Nesta, who was standing in the hallway only a couple of metres from our drawbridge. Dad beckoned him to retreat. Nesta shook his head. I put my fork down on my plate. Suddenly I didn’t love my pasta and mince even though i had grated some cheese on top to nice it up. The letter box crashed open again. My heart rumbled.
Crongton Knights follows McKay and his friends, Liccle Bit and Jonah, as they take on a mission to get back the phone of Venetia from her ex boyfriend. This mission means heading through North Crong to the dangers of Nortre Dame. On the way to get back this phone and after we learn of a riot in South Crong that endangers the lives of our characters further.
What I think is so marvellous in Wheatle’s character development is the way in which he gives every one of the main group of characters their own voice, despite their obvious similar dialect, and each has a redeemable quality. The dialogue is also incredibly funny and witty and evokes a sense of place. You can tell that perhaps the boys are not from the good side of town through their use of slang, as well as sometimes being seen as poorly educated compared to some of the other characters.
What I love most about the protagonist McKay is that he is an overweight young boy who has dreams of becoming a chef. He is stuck in Crongton with few to no prospects at all and has a lot of disruption in his life, particularly within his family. We all root for McKay to make the right decisions throughout the novel and I found myself really rooting for him to get the food he so desperately wants. This seems to be a theme throughout the novel, hunger, but not simply for food. There is a hunger for justice, for calm and peace and this theme links seamlessly with the second theme I found of loss. Everyone in this novel has lost someone, or hungers for something.
Additionally, Wheatle’s female characters really stood out to me as a female reader. I felt that the two girls, Venetia and Saira, were incredibly strong and therefore impressive. It is mostly to do with their cultural upbringing but both of these girls really prove themselves when it comes to standing up to those who try to belittle them, and they really prove that they are important members of the mission team. However this does not mean they don’t show weakness. Venetia in particular spends a long period of the novel crying which did feel a little overwhelming and yet necessary. She is incredibly sad talking about her losses in the past, and therefore her crying is really the only possible reaction for her to have.
Overall I thought this book was incredibly enjoyable. I can’t wait to get back into reading some more of Alex Wheatle’s work because I genuinely think that he will become one of my new favourite writers, who inspires some of my own work. I highly suggest that people go and seek out this book, especially anyone with a fascination for the underground London vibe.
Total pages – 304
Total read time – Untimed
Rating /10 – 7.5
Recommend – Yes