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Gang Girl by David Whittet

Opening in New Zealand in the 1970s, Gang Girl follows the story of Alicia, who was born into gang life, but she longs to escape. She is the daughter of a brutal, notorious gang leader and forced to abide by his roles, and she is often forced to witness violence. In the opening chapter, her father makes her watch the savage ritual of young boys being brutally tattooed in a gang ceremony, never to be the same afterward, against her will.

She is good friends with her cousin Mickey, but everything changes when she’s pledged in blood to him in an attempt to create unity in the gang. Instead, it creates disunity between the young cousins, destroys her dreams of freedom, and as the years go by, Mickey turns into a ruthless gang member.

But then, a chance meeting with a businessperson from outside the gang offers Alicia the escape she has always dreamt of. But will Mickey sit by and let her start her dream life with another man? Everything comes to a frightening climax on Alicia’s wedding day. Can she break free of her brutal past, or will everything end in bloodshed?

David Whittet worked as a rural GP for many years, and his novel is based on his experiences of treating people involved in gang life. He is also a filmmaker, and Gang Girl was first made as a movie.

Gang Girl is a story of a young woman determined to overcome her traumatic childhood and carve out her own destiny away from gang life. It’s a visceral read, but also one that is thought-provoking.

Reviewer: Karen McMillan



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