Life has been so busy of late that I’ve struggled to fit in as much reading as I would have liked. Which if I was to be completely honest would mean that I would be reading for at least half of the day and then spending the other half writing. Sadly though this is not really realistic, as ‘adulting’ tends to get in the way of this somewhat flawed but brilliant plan. However being away on holiday and free from general distractions has allowed me to dip into books which have been lingering towards the top of my TBR (To Be Read) pile and ‘Kick’ by Mitch Johnson was right at the top demanding my attention. After hearing rave reviews on Twitter about ‘Kick’ I purchased a copy for my school library and without fail, every child who I have given it to has loved it. I’m so happy that I snuck it out of the school library for myself because it is easily one of the best books I’ve read this year.
Budi has a plan in life, one thing that he dreams of doing more than anything else in the world. He is going to play for the greatest team on earth, Real Madrid and be as famous as his idol Kieran Wakefield. His life couldn’t be anymore further away from this dream – but the impossibility of his wish doesn’t deter Budi. For Budi works in a sweatshop, stitching football boots that he could never in his wildest dreams afford, always conscious of the omnipresent cane threatening him and the other children from the factory foreman. Budi’s harsh reality means walking home with his pockets turned out so that nobody robs him; never eating dinner on a Friday as there is not enough food and living in constant fear of getting cut due to a congenital illness as his family can’t afford medicine. But his life becomes more desperate and perilous when one unlucky kick leaves him owing a favour to the Dragon, the most dangerous man in Jakarta.
Heart-breaking and wonderfully compelling in equal measures, ‘Kick’ is an incredibly adept debut from Mitch Johnson. He transports the reader into the brutal heart of Indonesia where the divide between the rich and poor is so immense, you can feel it pour out through the pages. His wonderful descriptive writing stimulates all of your senses so that you can picture the chaos of the crumbling apartment blocks, smell the spicy, salty street food, hear the swish of the foreman’s cane and feel the oppressive heat of the unrelenting sun. Although Budi and this story is a work of fiction, the truth of the matter – which you can’t escape when reading this book – is that for hundreds of thousands of children around the world this is the actual life they live. Mitch brilliantly balances the hopes and dreams of Budi with the harsh fact that his chance of escaping this vicious cycle of poverty and exploitation is virtually non-existent. He doesn’t shy away from the darkness of the world Budi inhabits and he doesn’t choose the easy way out and for that I have to commend him. Despite all of this, it is still primarily a story about dreaming big, about having hope in the darkest of times and never giving up even when the odds seem too high. Brilliantly told and magnificently delivered, ‘Kick’ needs to be in every junior, primary and secondary library. If you ever want to encourage empathy and offer children an insight into the difficult lives of other children around the world, then let them read this story.
‘Kick’ is available to buy now online or from any good bookshop.