Published by Orion Children’s Books.
Review by Elle Wrightson.
The Trap by Alan Gibbons is a powerful young adult novel that follows a family defined and weakened by extremism. Majid, the eldest son, was manipulated to turn to the jihadi’s and visit Syria, leaving his brother and sister, Amir and Nasima, living in the turmoil that he left behind. Gibbons’s use of a chronological narrative that is interrupted by flashes into the past allows us to watch Majid make the decisions that decide his fate and the abuse that his family are left to face.
The impact on Majid’s family pushes the plot forward, particularly through the opening sections of the novel. Racial slurs and divisions within society are inflicted upon Amir and his friend Nikel from the onset. This is shocking and evokes sympathy for the characters, but also acts to create an understanding when they attend the EDL march. This scene is powerful in showing the police’s selective prosecution as Amir is arrested, despite the hurling abuse from the opposing side. This event causes a chain of events that puts Amir and his family under scrutiny, threatening their safety within the community due to Majid’s actions.
Gibbons goes further, as his omniscient narrative enlightens us to Majid’s return to England, despite being believed to have died in a bombing. As we, the reader, know that Majid is alive and working against his terrorist associates under the codename ‘Bungee’, but his family does not, we are anticipating a reunion. But the pressure is building for Majid to stop the terrorist attack. With the attack only days away, the threat of violence is increasing. Gibbons’s imagery of guns, suicide vests and an ominous ‘mound’ in the centre of a flat makes you question whether a positive resolution is possible, and keeps you turning the page.
Beside Majid’s counter-conspiracy with the MI5, we see his agent, Kate, struggle to gain her manager’s approval regarding Majid’s reliability. Gibbons directly manipulates our viewpoint by recounting early conversations between Kate and Majid and using flashbacks to Majid’s past. By doing this, Gibbons pushes us towards trusting Majid and leaves you second-guessing yourself. Can Majid be trusted to save innocent lives or is he playing the MI5 to claim more victims?
Overall, The Trap by Alan Gibbons is an unflinching account of islamophobia, terrorism and extremism. Though these themes are daring and shocking, the familiarity of morality and bravery that exists alongside them enables The Trap to resonate with most readers. Gibbons contributes to this with layered but realistic characters and a sensitive portrayal of complex events. Altogether this results in a powerful young adult novel that highlights problems that are growing more prominent within society.