Boy A by Jonathan Trigell

I recently read Boy A by Jonathan Trigell. It is about a “young offender” in a similar case to the Jamie Bulger murder of 1993, in which two young boys tortured and killed a toddler. In Boy A the story starts with the title character being released from prison as a young adult. Although published in 2004, and having some of the key details changed (the victim is a girl of the same age as her killers; “Boy B” (the second young killer, is murdered in prison in what is made to look like a suicide), the story is an eerie echo of recent events in which Jon Venables (one of the Jamie Bulger killers) was released and then rearrested for committing another serious crime.

Although the book is told mainly from Boy A’s perspective, it touches on some of the issues which have arisen since the Bulger case i.e.

  • can children be truly evil and responsible for their crimes?
  • what – if any – circumstances can cause children to be so violent?
  • can such children ever be rehabilitated?
  • how does being in prison with adult criminals change the young offender?
  • should young offenders who commit violent crimes be given new identities on their release as young adults?
  • how such a terrible crime affects both the families of the victims and the offenders, the communities they live in, as well as those charged with monitoring the offenders on their release

I found it a well written book, which goes some way to provide answers to these questions, with a great deal of control i.e. it was not a sensational telling of the story. And I thought it a realistic exploration of the character of Boy A. He is neither the devil personified, nor is he an innocent.

During the last year I have also read Border Crossing by Pat Barker, and Ten Seconds from the Sun by Russell Celyn Jones.  Both deal with similar topics – young offenders who have committed violent crimes, and who have been released from prison.

In the case of Border Crossing, the story is told from the point of view of the psychologist handling the case.  The offender is (what I imagine a lot of us think young offenders of violent crimes to be) a charming, very clever psychopath. Pat Barker writes a chilling, but realistic story.

In Ten Seconds from the Sun, we meet the young offender when he is older (i.e. years after his release) and living a responsible life under a new identity, married with young children. His constant fear is that his past will come back to haunt him, and he’ll be exposed.  Of the three books this was probably the least satifying in terms of the exploration of the main character, and of trying to analyse the original crime and why it happened. It also was to me the least believable of the three books.


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Categories: Books/Book Reviews


I live on the Southern coast of South Africa, and write about the things that interest, amuse or inspire me. You can find me at and (my photoblog)


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4 Comments on “Boy A by Jonathan Trigell”

  1. September 17, 2010 at 10:59 am #

    I haven’t read Boy A, but we saw the movie about a year or so ago. It was an amazing story, and it stayed with me for days … all of those questions you mention flew around in my head, and I don’t think I managed to answer any of them at all. They remained as questions, but it did seem to me that he would never have a “clean slate” to start over; the truth would always be with him, and haunt him.
    Sunshine x

    • September 17, 2010 at 3:43 pm #

      The movie was shown here on television recently. I recorded it, but haven’t had a chance to watch it yet. It will be interesting to see how closely it follows the book.

      I think you’re right that somebody who commits a violent crime, can’t ever escape it. Even if they manage successfully to hide behind a new identity. Something like that has to change you as a person.

  2. sue hyatt
    October 10, 2011 at 5:57 pm #

    my son is studying this book for part of his GCSE, there doesn’t seem to be much support online, maybe the text it too new

    • October 10, 2011 at 6:39 pm #

      Hi Sue, Thanks for visiting my blog and leaving a comment! 🙂 I have had quite a few hits on this post since I wrote it, so assumed it had been chosen as a set-work. I’m not a teacher, I just found it an interesting book and decided to write down some of my thoughts about it.

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