Stone Cold by Robert Swindells

A review of the young adult thriller novel Stone Cold by Robert Swindells.

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Stone Cold by Robert Swindells is a Young Adult novel centred around the horrors of living on the streets. The book follows Link who runs away from his broken, abusive home as a teenager. He bounces around a few places before the little money he has runs out and he’s forced to live on the streets. He meets a few people while there that he befriends and they work together to survive the harsh conditions. The main problem is that there’s a serial killer in the area hunting homeless people.

The book also follows the serial killer. Shelter is an ex-army soldier that was discharged for not being mentally fit anymore. He feels that it’s perfectly justifiable to kill the homeless because he has been trained and encouraged to kill his country’s enemies. To him, homeless people are enemies of the country, and eventually Link and Shelter’s lives collide.

The book is marketed and listed as a horror or thriller book. There are certainly elements of this within the novel, but it’s much more a social commentary. It outlines the very real struggle that homeless people face every day. The disdain that other people look upon them with and the way that many—like the media or those in a position of power—attack the homeless. They’re labelled as scroungers or fakes who are making a better living than most people begging. That’s if they care enough to think about them. The homeless are either a problem that needs to be cleansed or they’re invisible.

It also highlights the struggles of being a soldier. The antagonist, Shelter, clearly suffered because of his time in the armed forces. Nobody could excuse what he does when he’s out but he’s obviously in the middle of some kind of psychotic break, most likely brought on by a severe case of post-traumatic stress from what he experienced in the army.

It’s well-written and does a good job of sounding like a seventeen year-old when Link does the narrating. And, for a social commentary, it isn’t that preachy. I’m not a fan of books where the author tries to ram a message down your throat. This book wonderfully displays how you can give your reader a message without preaching it to them. It’s well worth a read.

Cassidy grew up in Thanet and lives here with her family.

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