Let me take you into the future…
Two decades of cuts have devastated Britain.
Banks keep going under; businesses keep closing; prices keep soaring, hospitals aren’t coping; police are armed and schools have returned to the tripartite system. At the bottom of the pile, the Challenge Academies are reduced to just keeping kids off the streets; they no longer try to educate them, there are no university places, no jobs, no future…
… and the biggest cut of all has been equal opportunity.
And still the government is planning where the axe falls next…
Enter Leah Jackson:
September 18th INT. YouOp Challenge Academy78
Leah is having the worst day ever. She woke up to Mum depressed; baby sister, Sally, in tears and brother, Connor, not doing his Friday duty. Keeping the show on the road has fallen on her plate again. Worst of all it’s on the very day she’s booked to try out, after school, for her Five Minutes of Fame and Fortune at the local office of the Ministry of Youth Opportunity.
Of course being late for school hasn’t made anything better. But that’s nothing. Without warning Leah is catapulted into a real nightmare. A bunch of armed Year 9s burst into her a.m. detention and start shooting. Leah escapes, but there’s no way out. The new Lock Down system recommended by YouOp to keep intruders out is now locking everyone in. Resourceful and brave Leah takes to the ceilings to hide, with one other student, Anton. Together they survive the first horrific shootings in the library. They manage to call out to the world at large, and then they make a plan: a plan to help rescue the other kids who’ve been taken hostage. But before Leah and Anton can put The Plan into action, they must find a way to survive, a way to outwit their captors, a way to locate and retrieve the wounded; in particular Ruby, an injured Year 7 girl, who’s been left secured in a book cupboard. Ruby urgently needs medical attention, and Leah must find a way to get her some before the Year 9 gang, the so called ‘Eternal Knights’, finish their butchery.
Outside the world waits and watches: anxious parents gather, news tycoons offer exclusive scoops, the army want intelligence, psychologists give opinions, television cameras roll, sociologists rationalise, doctors advise – and they all want a piece of Leah.
But all is not as it seems. Imprisoned in the ceilings of Challenge Academy78, Leah cannot know that the shootings are part of a deliberate, government-managed operation to direct where the axe falls next.
And just as Whitehall predicts, the debate begins: ‘…challenge kids are out of control, have no future, respect no one, are un-educatable, unemployable, ungrateful, mindless, violent, dangerous, feral… a waste of resources, waste of goodwill, waste of time… need to be put to work, taught a lesson, respect their elders, value society…’
Solution? ‘Extend Volunteer Programmes, end Challenge Academies.’ Welcome back The Legal Illiterate.
After all, there’s free education up to Class 6, do they really need more? And for those with potential there’s still the Five minutes of Fame and Fortune, isn’t there?
Amongst all the furore one news reporter’s worked it out. But she needs proof that the siege has been government masterminded. And she’s worried about Leah too, the girl who might unwittingly bring the regime down. She tries to get through to Leah to ask for her help and to warn her.
But how is Leah to know who to trust?
Soon Leah’s phone battery is running out; the SAS want her to do a reconnaissance trip into the hostage area; the army are talking of parachuting a team onto the roof and they all need her help… or do they?
And can anyone really help her? For Leah is guarding a growing conviction that her brother, Connor, is at the centre of the horror, may be working with the Eternal Knights, may even have been used, brainwashed, be nothing more than a pawn in a vast game bigger than she can imagine… She cannot betray him or what she knows to the SAS, but helping him may mean sacrificing others. Alone in the ceilings and air vents, with only the taciturn Anton for company, Leah must make some terrible choices.
She must come to terms with her role in the tragedy. What she could have done to prevent it. All those times Connor reached out for help… If she had voiced her fears earlier, tried to support him more – would things have been any different?
SIEGE is a disturbing futuristic YA novel, capturing the zeitgeist and drawing its inspiration from our inner city schools. It is a chilling fictional narrative about what could happen to disaffected youngsters in a rapidly disintegrating society.