Book: An Act of Love by Alan Gibbons  

Review by Julia Pirie

An Act of Love by Alan Gibbons
Published by Orion

After Caught in the Crossfire (2003) Alan Gibbons was sent abusive letters and emails. Undeterred, in An Act of Love he returns to similar territory – those ‘whose lives are changed by the aftermath of 9/11 and the activities of’ what Gibbons calls ‘the unrepresentative fringe elements of the Muslim community and… (the) neo-Nazis.’ Gibbons says he is ‘committed to writing books boys will read,’ and, despite its title, An Act of Love will certainly appeal to boys (KS3, KS4). Two seven-year-olds, Chris and Imran celebrate the Millennium as inseparable blood brothers, but by 2011 their lives have diverged.
The former has been wounded in Afghanistan and the latter is a potential jihad recruit. Their story unfolds in a series of flashbacks told from the viewpoint of both. In a sense they are caught in the crossfire of two ideologies explored in the parallel stories of two other sinister protagonists – a radicalised white Islamic convert and a neo-Nazi ‘Christian soldier’.
Gibbons writes in straightforward prose. His subject is war, the terror of war brought to a street near you. Asked why he returns to such bleak subject-matter, he replies: ‘… you only enter a dark room if you think you can light the way out.’
And here’s my problem. Is this book a work of fiction or a survival guide for teenagers in multi-racial Britain? There is no reason why it couldn’t succeed on both counts but for me it doesn’t.
In an effort to examine a variety of political/social/religious stances Gibbons introduces a range of characters and situations, none of which I found fully developed. So although the target audience will recognise themselves it doesn’t pack a huge punch as fiction.
That said, I’d recommend it to students.

ISBN: 9781444002287