6 Mar 2012

Toxic Treacle - Review and Author interview

Toxic treacle by Echo Freer
Available March 22nd 2012

What's it about?
This is a world without parents. There are nurturers – women who bear and raise children, and breeders – men whose only obligation is to produce three offspring and then leave. No responsibilities, no involvement, no contact. This is a world devoid of paternal relationships, of parental homes, of families.
Micky “Monkey” Gibbon is counting down the days until graduation – until he can leave high school, start playing professional football, breed with his high-school crush, Angel, and enjoy living the life of a breeder. He can’t understand why his best mate, Tragic, is so sceptical. Who wouldn’t want to escape the oppressive rules of the TREACLE regime (Training and Resources for Educating Adolescent Children in a Loving Environment), where there’s unrest on the streets and frequent disappearances? Life couldn’t get better. Until Tragic disappears…
A mysterious clue left in Tragic’s abandoned house opens a whole plethora of questions. Enlisting the help of Angel, Micky embarks on a desperate quest to find his friend, but each step closer to Tragic is a step away from the safety of the world he thought he knew.
Angel and Micky want to uncover the truth, and in the process determine the paths their own lives will take…but rebellion comes at a high price. Angel and Monkey must choose between what is accepted, and what they think is right. Complicated by forbidden love and intertwined with fear, Toxic Treacle is a provocative consideration of what family, masculinity, and fatherhood really mean today.

My review
As a big fan of Dystopian books I've read a lot of them and whilst I wouldn't say Toxic Treacle is the best Dystopian book I've read, it's definitely up there in my favourites.
Right away you're sucked into this futuristic world where society is a lot different to it is now, men are just only for breeding, then sent away to be providers, without male role models boys have started gangs, or Brotherhoods and are fighting in the streets and becoming out of control. They even have their own slang which I loved and still find myself saying 'Shiltz' a day after reading. I like when a book has it's own slang like that, it gives it something of it's own and it's memorable to the story or series, and even with this new 'street speech' I didn't find it difficult to understand what the characters were talking about, it's easy enough to figure out what they mean and follow the story.
I did like Monkey (Micky) though sometimes, I'll admit he kind of annoyed me, he didn't seem to understand the risks people were going to for him and was only focused on what he wanted which made him feel a bit selfish, though he was more grown up by the end of the book, I didn't feel he'd grown up enough considering what he'd learnt and been through, but then I forget, he was only 16.
I also found the ending to be rushed, I'd happily have read another hundred pages to see more of the resistence and how the ending came to pass and more of what happened after.
But all in all, it was a really enjoyable book that was easy to read, I really loved the premise and think it ended well. I'm not sure if this is the start of a new series but I'll be reading the next book if it is as I'd love to see how the world has changed since the actions at the end of the story.

My thougths on the cover
I wasn't a huge fan of this cover when I first saw it but it's grown on me a lot, I like the bright colours and that the title is graffiti on a wall, it really suits the book and looks like the world it's set in.

Favourite quotes
'Angel's hair was so close to his face, it brushed against his skin and her breath was warm against his cheek. God, he fancied her! If she didn't choose him for breeding, he didn't know what he'd do.'

''We've got no one to aspire to - except females; no one to teach us how to act; what we're supposed to do, what we're supposed to enjoy. That sort of thing.' He was expecting a response from his father, but none came. 'When I was at alpha-school I tried to sit in the urinals because I didn't know what they were for. You know, there're even some pres who can't piss standing up - because no ones ever taught them! No one can show us how to be adult males - and we don't see any until we graduate.' - Monkey.


First of all, I’ll ask the obvious! You’ve built such an intricate world in Toxic Treacle, where did you get the idea for it?

-Toxic Treacle actually began life about 7 years ago as a novel called `Daddy’s Girl’ set in the present day about a girl who sets out to find her estranged father. But it wasn’t working so I decided to change the character to a boy but that wasn’t working either. And then I thought, `I wonder what would happen in a world where all fathers were estranged?’ So I created a scenario which had to be set in the future. Once I knew I was going to write something futuristic I just kept asking myself – what if? How would that have come about? Why would it be like that? And it developed from there.
I’m a big fan of Dystopian books, I love that element of something that could realistically happen in the future, is that something you were aiming for with the book?
-Yes, once I’d decided to write the story in the future I knew I wanted it to be dystopian. I wanted to try and catch that warped psychological brainwashing that dictatorships and military regimes use where things are presented as being in the best interests of society but, when you look more deeply, they’re quite the opposite.
Who was your favourite character to write?
-That’s a toughie! I like writing strong female characters but, at the same time, I want them to get their strength from fully being themselves and owning their power – not from putting down boys, which seems to be a bit of a trend of late. I’m a great believer in partnerships so I try to write books where both male and female characters have strengths and weaknesses that complement each other. And so, although I enjoyed writing Angel, I found Monkey’s personal journey the most satisfying to write. His development from being a bit of a `lad’ to being a strong leader is like a gradual awakening – but he couldn’t have done it without Angel.
Is there a particular reason you choose to write a Dystopian novel?
-On this occasion it fitted the purpose for the story I wanted to write. As I said earlier, I’d tried to write it twice as a present day novel, once with a girl main protagonist and once with a boy, bit it didn’t work so, by projecting it into an imagined future, it worked much better.
Do you have a particular writing process? Are you a big story boarder, or do you just pick up your pen, er keyboard, and see where your characters take you?
-I plan everything meticulously! I spend a long time getting inside the heads of my main characters, so that I know them intimately. I know everything about them – much more than ever comes out in the books, then I start to plan my story. I storm ideas then tease them into some sort of storyline with highs and lows. I often know my ending long before I know how I’m going to get there so the planning is all about working out a plot that will get me from the opening line to the final resolution. I then plan each chapter too. I liken it to starting out on a journey and having a map. Even if you go astray (which most writers will tell you, always happens – characters have a way of going off and doing their own thing!) you can get back on track. But if you just start out writing, it can get very waffly and confusing. I read a book recently and, in the back, the author said that she hadn’t planned it: she just sat down and went where the story took her and I though, `Yes, you can tell. It’s a really disappointing book that didn’t fulfil its potential.’ I research loads too and stick maps, photos, drawings, family trees, time lines etc up on the notice board next to my PC – so that I can just look up and check where I am in the plot. I created a whole map of Monkey’s home town with all the different zones on it so that I could visualise it as I wrote.
Do you have a favourite quote from Toxic Treacle?
-Probably the quote that puts the whole book into context comes from Karl, the escapee whom Monkey and Angel meet in the village. He says, `Love isn’t just about saying darling at the end of every sentence: it’s about guidance and balance and being there – day and night – even when it’s tough. It’s about boundaries and consistency.’
What are you working on next? Can you give us any sneak peeks? :p
-I’ve got several projects on the go at the moment; one is another comedy along the lines of the Magenta books, but with a different twist, another is a Young Adult thriller – although not a dystopian one this time and I’ve also been asked to turn a film script into a book for 9 – 12 year olds but I can’t tell you anything about that yet!
And lastly, are you a Bookaholic?
-I’ve checked out your blog but I’m not a follower – sorry! It’s a fantastic site and well done for creating it (I’m rubbish at writing my own blog!) I try to spend as little time as possible on the internet apart from researching – it’s way too tempting and, before I know what’s happened, half the day’s gone and I’ve hardly written anything. One thing you do need as a writer is self discipline! But good luck with your site and your future careers. And thank you for asking such interesting questions.

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1 comment:

  1. Yay, another one you enjoyed! I do have this for review but I'm just not in the mood at the moment. Awesome review/interview ~ Donna


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