Reading the blurb of WRATH the final statement seemed like a pretty brave one - "A novel about a mistake we could all make and redemption". Especially when you know that the inspiration of the book is the real-life story of a 24-year-old Tennessee man who was executed for murdering his mother and stepfather when he was 13.
Even allowing for a position that implacably rejects the concept of capital punishment, that's, you can't help but feel, a bit more than a mistake on many levels.
But given that the book is set in Western Australia it was safe to assume from the outset that execution was not on the table. The remainder of the scenario - the idea that a young boy would murder his mother and stepfather and never say why, or accept his fate with the level-headedness that Luca displays is enough of a gobsmacking concept to process.
Moving away from the inspiration, this is a book about a young Australian boy who really struggles when his family separates. His twin sister Katy is closer to their mother, but Luca has always hero-worshipped his Dad. Who, when he separates from their mother, removes himself from the family totally. He simply disappears from young Luca's life at the worst possible time for any boy, let alone one that loves his father unconditionally. The discovery that his mother has another love interest, a man she eventually marries, who then moves the family from the small country town where they had lived happily, is yet another betrayal for Luca. The only person that remains constant in his life is his beloved sister, and her close relationship with their stepfather feels wrong to him - betraying their natural father, despite his absolute rejection of both the twins.
Until the night that Luca kills his stepfather and then his mother. And never says why.
WRATH starts out post the killing, as Luca is tried and sentenced, and then into juvenile detention. It's told from his viewpoint as well, which gives the reader an interesting viewpoint. It's obvious that Luca doesn't want to address the issue of why he killed, nor does he particularly want to acknowledge the pain that his father's desertion has left. He's grieving the loss of his life, the loss of his mother, and contact with his twin all the time that he's trying to work out the rules of his new life. He's forming new friendships, working out the friend/foe equation and obviously dealing with a lot of internal conflict. The way the author has written his voice is beautifully done - he's believable, fragile and tough, regretful and hopeful all at once.
Whilst the story is obviously crafted for kids of a similar age to read (particularly boys) there is much here for the adult reader as well. The closeness of the relationship that the reader builds with Luca is also quite challenging. This is a boy - a child - that has killed, in cold-blood, two people. Never knowing why, realising that he won't, more than can't, articulate the reason is as sinister as it is disturbing, as it is heartbreaking.
A shattering, emotional rollercoaster of a book, just as the blurb puts it WRATH is all about a mistake that we could all make, and the redemption that some of us deserve.