The Last Minute by Eleanor Updale
9.21am: business as usual on a high street in England.
9.22am: the explosions are heard for miles around, and in the early confusion there is talk of a gas leak, a plane crash, and even terrorism…
The people of Heathwick had been preparing for Christmas unaware that many would die, and the rest would be transformed for ever. Travel with them, second-by-second, through the hopes, fears, love, worries, gossip, cruelty, kindness and trivia that dominated their final minute before tragedy struck.
And in the everyday story of an ordinary street, look for clues to what happened, and why.
I was browsing for new YA books to read and I came a across The Last Minute, I for one am a bit of a sucker for a catchy cover art (sorry). So with a explosion being shown on it, I read the synopsis and as you can read above it is actually quite catchy. Trying to show the ordinary lives in a England shopping street as they unconsciously live their last minute. I did believe this book to be quite a daunting task in writing up. Especially when taking into account that every single chapter only displays a single second and that as a writer you have to been on top of your game in writing up what happens each second and have a clear overview on the whole as well. You also cannot take the story to fast because, what can happen in a second? What can happen in a minute? This was a greatly executed.
The Last Minute starts of at 9.33am in the prologue where you already get a grasp of the devastation that has been wrecked in Heathwick. Soon after it though you are thrown in the many perspective of all the people that are currently on the street. The first thing that was notable and that Eleanor Updale did nicely was writing the chapters by the second and alternating them with the “tick-tocking” of the clock, this really produced a countdown moment, with each chapter you came a second closer. You as a reader only know that something worse if going to happen when the clock hits 9.22am but how and why and where you just don’t know. There are many leads given that could all possible pose a threat and be the cause of the explosion, but whether it is a singular start or a combinations of several events that happened exactly at 9.22am? Eleanor Updale made a small detective of this book where it is up to the reader to get to the bottom.
There are many people in the street, 65 in total. The Last Minute count 60 chapters one for each second. I was actually quite stunned by the fact that so many stories were intertwined in those chapters. The encounters with the people of Heathwick are not only described by saying “Hallo” on the street but for several of the character you learn quite a lot about their background in just a few sentences. Taken together with the impending sense, the highlighted backgrounds of several characters did produce for me a somewhat “I feel bad for them” feeling. The whole framework of this book telling the last minute definitely lend a strength to the book and was further backed up by showing the lives of the persons of Heathwick.
Though the switching to different characters of the book was done within a few sentences, there were for me a few moments where it did not go that smooth, I found this happening for me around the half of the book, and it somehow took the pacing away a bit. Luckily this was soon recovered and as the second ticked of. I got that impending doom feeling and I had to drop everything to finish the last few seconds of this book.
The Last Minute stops quite abruptly as the last second ticks off.. there is a epilogue in the back that shows a nice reflection the events that occurred in 9.22am but even the authorities are struck more or less clueless about what actually transpired. Like I mentioned Eleanor Updale has done more for The Last Minute than simply this book there is fully interactive new report online about this story. So that you as a young reader - aspiring detective - can dig to the bottom of what happened in Heathwick these documents can be found at www.eleanorupdale.com/minute I think you can have your kids entertained for hours with this book.
This The Last Minute book review was written by Jasper de Joode
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