Tipping Point by Michelle Cook
This gripping, dystopian thriller is set in England, fifteen years into the future, yet, to me, the message in this story has never felt more relevant and important. The world is at ‘Tipping Point’ where the ecosystem is about to transition to a new state, never to return to how it used to be. The weather is unpredictable and dangerous with swarms of giant gnats a common occurrence in the Midlands. This is the bleak world which eighteen-year-old, red-headed emo, Essie Glass, inhabits. Two years ago, her parents and two sisters were killed in a terrorist attack, leaving her alone to fend for herself whilst trying to cope with survivor’s guilt – something she frequently medicates with cider and tequila. Although she has good friends; Maya and her boss Bri, she hides behind her computer screen to vent her feelings where she can be ‘electronically brave’. Cook is great at reflecting on loss which is very moving; the description of Essie’s sometimes tricky relationship with her sister, Willow, felt very real and I loved how they each had their juicy bits of dirt on each other which they could bring out to use as blackmail when the time suited.
Essie’s England is full of drones – it is a place where what a person wears to an inquest gets more coverage than the actual details of a horrific incident. The politics of England are toxic and dictatorial – you must earn Good Citizen points to keep on the right side of the government and the police are brutal. Cook paints such a vivid picture of the future – it will leave you cold. This is a place where you are always being watched and there is no right to protest; racism is rife; where rallies can result in death; where torture is inflicted to extract the truth and prison is a truly terrifying experience. But more importantly, and this is the crux of the novel, it is a place where, for those in power, the acquisition of money is more important than saving the planet.
There is, however, hope amongst the grief. The bleak visual landscape is broken up with lovely sensual descriptions of ‘lemony parma violet towels’ and a vicarage which smells of vanilla. Colour is important too; I loved how a tiny picture of a rainbow was able to lift Essie’s spirit and how the vivid colour of a bluebell was re-incarnated in the form of a forget-me-not. Friendship and trust become everything to Essie as her dangerous mission unfolds, but there is also a lovely thread of romance too which provides an uplifting contrast to the tense and, often bloody, search for a missing file.
Cook doesn’t shy away from strong themes such as grief and domestic violence whilst at the same time questioning what it means to survive and stand up for what you believe in; a truly captivating novel from a super talented author.