About the Book
Seventeen-year-old Tyler lives in one of Edinburgh’s most deprived areas. Coerced into robbing rich people’s homes by his bullying older siblings, he’s also trying to care for his little sister and his drug-addict mum.
On a job, his brother Barry stabs a homeowner and leaves her for dead, but that’s just the beginning of their nightmare, because the woman is the wife of Edinburgh’s biggest crime lord, Deke Holt.
With the police and the Holts closing in, and his shattered family in devastating danger, Tyler meets posh girl Flick in another stranger’s house, and he thinks she may just be his salvation … unless he drags her down too.
Breakers follows Tyler, a seventeen year old boy, who is living in a really deprived area. His mum is a drug addict and incapable of looking after her family so Tyler is take care of his little sister Bean. He also has two older siblings, Barry and Kelly, who drag Tyler into their life of stealing from rich people’s homes. One night a burglary goes wrong and Tyler doesn’t know how to cope with what’s happened.
Early on in the novel Tyler is along with his brother and sister scoping out a home to burgle and Tyler had a bad feeling as soon as he starts going through the family’s belongings. Something isn’t quite right. Then the worst happens and the homeowner arrives home and Barry stabs the woman and leaves her for dead. At this point I was so angry with what they’d done but very quickly we see that Tyler has a conscience. He was forced to go along on the robbery and he tries to make right what has happened in the small way he can without implicating anyone. Tyler knows that if anything happens to him that his little sister will be taken into care and he refuses to let that happen to her.
This is a novel that shows the level of deprivation that people are living in, it was hard to read at times as Tyler has clearly taken on all responsibility for a sister that is only ten years younger than him. He hasn’t had much of a childhood and now at the point when he should be out with his friends and finding his feet in the world he’s having to be a parent to his sibling. He never begrudges anything that he does for Bean though, and she clearly trusts him to look after her so their bond is a beautiful thing in that shone through all the darkness in their lives. I never expected to feel so attached to Tyler. I soon had him weighed up and I was rooting for him all the way through this novel. There were moments when I could have cried for him, and moments when I wanted to swoop in and help. Mostly I was in awe of his ability to take care of his sister and his mum, and to never let his own fears and worries fall on their shoulders. He never loses compassion for his mum either, in spite of the mess she’s in and I found that incredibly moving. He gets frustrated with the situation she’s in but he never punishes her for it, he knows he might lose her to the drugs but part of him never lets go of the hope that she might one day find her way out.
Sometimes Tyler needs some time and space away from the weight of his family dramas and he breaks into houses for some peace, and to experience a short time of seeing what someone else’s family might be like. On one of these break-ins he meets Flick and they form a friendship. The contrast between Tyler and Flick’s lives was stark to begin with. Her family have money and Flick seemingly has everything she could possibly want. As the book goes on it’s apparent that they have more in common than it first appeared as both are looking for someone who understands them and accepts them for who they are. It seems like each may have found the person they need and I was willing for them to find a way to be together.
This is such a hard-hitting and devastating novel but it has such heart, which gives it a beauty that I wasn’t expecting. I knew I was going to like this book before I even started reading it but I didn’t expect that I was going to love it quite as much as I did. I finished reading this a few days ago and I feel like my love for it is just grown stronger. I keep thinking about Tyler and hoping he’s okay. It’s a book that gave me so much more than I was expecting and it’s left its mark on my heart. I now want to read everything that Doug Johnstone has ever written!
Breakers is fast-paced, gritty and dark but there is hope at its centre. I found this novel impossible to put down and I’m in awe of how good it is. I highly recommend it, it’s absolutely brilliant!
Many thanks to Orenda for my copy of this book. All thoughts are my own.
Breakers is out now in ebook and available for pre-order in paperback here.
About the Author
Doug Johnstone is a writer, musician and journalist based in Edinburgh. His ninth novel, Fault Lines, was published by Orenda Books in May 2018. His previous books include The Jump, shortlisted for the McIlvanney Prize for Best Scottish Crime Novel, Gone Again, an Amazon bestseller, and Hit & Run (2012) which was an Amazon #1 as well as being selected as a prestigious Fiction Uncovered winner. His work has received praise from the likes of Irvine Welsh, Ian Rankin, Val McDermid, William McIlvanney, Megan Abbott and Christopher Brookmyre.
Doug was recently Writer in Residence with William Purves Funeral Directors. He is also a Royal Literary Fund Consultant Fellow, and was RLF Fellow at Queen Margaret University in Edinburgh 2014-2016. Doug was also Writer in Residence at the University of Strathclyde 2010-2012 and before that worked as a lecturer in creative writing there. He’s had short stories appear in various publications and anthologies, and since 1999 he has worked as a freelance arts journalist, primarily covering music and literature. He is also a mentor and manuscript assessor for The Literary Consultancy and Emergents in the Scottish Highlands.
Doug is one of the co-founders of the Scotland Writers Football Club, for whom he also puts in a shift in midfield as player-manager. He is also a singer, musician and songwriter in several bands, including Northern Alliance, who have released four albums to critical acclaim, as well as recording an album as a fictional band called The Ossians. Doug has also released three solo EPs. He currently plays drums for the Fun Lovin’ Crime Writers, a crime writing supergroup featuring Val McDermid, Mark Billingham, Chris Brookmyre, Stuart Neville and Luca Veste.
Doug has a degree in physics, a PhD in nuclear physics and a diploma in journalism, and worked for four years designing radars. He grew up in Arbroath and lives in Portobello, Edinburgh with his wife and two children.
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