Special education has never looked like this.
Ewan West has grown up being seen as nothing more than a defiant teenage screw-up, with learning difficulties and enormous personal issues. Thankfully, he’s smart as hell in the battlefield. And now that the British population depends on him, his life might finally mean something.
Britain has been conquered, its population imprisoned in giant walled citadels. They are guarded by an innumerable army of cloned soldiers, created by the biologists and military personnel who have seized power. The nation’s last hope are the Guerrillas: a dozen fighters comprised largely of Ewan’s special school classmates, hidden in the abandoned countryside near the prison city of New London.
Ewan and his friends have much to fight against – inside and out – in order to free the British people. But their war is as complex as the characters who fight it. After all, how do you defeat a factory-grown army that outnumbers you by at least a million? The answer may lie in an impossible woman rescued by the Guerrillas, who claims to know the secret to destroying New London’s clone factory.
Guerrillas, suitable for teens and adults alike, is a character-driven story above all else. Its main characters have spent their formative years being made to believe they’re at the bottom of the social food chain, and now find themselves trying to rescue the population that put them there. As they develop throughout the story, the teenagers are trapped in a constant conflict between learning how to play to their strengths, and coping with the demand on their mental states as the war takes turns for the worse.
In an era when fictional representations of neurodiversity and disability are on the rise, Guerrillas goes beyond mere tokenism and introduces a whole cast of teenagers who think differently, balancing their inbuilt advantages with their personal challenges. The novel blends increasingly relevant social issues with intense action, and the result is more than a typical underdog tale. It is a war story about vulnerable young people trying to be the best they can be, in a world that has never been on their side.
A reflective road sign with a thirty-miles-per-hour speed limit suggested that a village was close by. The crumpled frame of a Citroën lay wrapped around the sign’s pole. A year ago, some idiot had tried to escape in a car.
The driver’s body had been left for nature to sort out, and nature had done a good job of it. The skeleton slumped over the steering wheel would remain in place for decades to come, and so would the bullet that had dropped to the leather seat as the skin around it had been eaten away.
Ewan poked his rifle through the car’s remains. They had not been ambushed this far from New London for half a year, but he wasn’t known for taking stupid risks anymore. With nothing of interest inside the vehicle, he glanced up at the sign. There was still enough daylight to read the sentence beneath it.
Sandridge welcomes careful drivers.
‘Repeat after me, Ewan,’ came Alex’s voice, ‘we are definitely stopping here tonight.’
‘What, your little legs are getting tired?’
‘Not tired. Bored. There’s a difference.’
It was Alex in a nutshell. The old man of the strike team, nearly in his mid-twenties, he seemed to think his extra years gave him some kind of authority. That, and not having learning difficulties.
Ewan understood. Alex must have felt humiliated, sent out with a bunch of special school teenagers and not even being the leader. Kids in special ed were supposed to be useless. Even the clever ones.
Ewan left the Citroën, and led Alex and Charlie into Sandridge. The other half of the squad would be less than a mile behind.
‘I’ll give us half an hour. No more. The more walking we get done tonight, the quicker we get to the Citadel tomorrow. And the less knackered we’ll be if any gunfire starts.’
Ewan checked around for nodding heads. Alex and Charlie would not be happy, but they knew whatever Ewan said, he meant.
At the start of the war, there had been more than thirty people in Dr McCormick’s band of Guerrillas. Less than half of them were still alive, and Ewan’s leadership had grown more uncompromising with every death. There were twelve Guerrillas left now, six of them on that night’s mission. Ewan was pretty sure that was half. Two sixes made twelve, after all.
Common sense told him a war between twelve humans and Nicholas Grant’s million cloned soldiers was already hopeless, and the British people would be imprisoned in the Citadels forever. Especially since eight Guerrillas were Oakenfold teens. But Ewan’s whole brain was built for defiance.
These people are helping to fund Guerrillas.