Car-Jacked by Ali Sparkes

The first of our shortlisted titles in the CBA Books for Older Readers category, here Ali Sparkes has some multiple choice questions about Car-Jacked

  1. You’ve just been abducted by a bank robber, after he nicked your parents’ car – and you were in it. Now it’s crashed in the wilderness. He tells you to go; get back to your family and safety and hot food and a warm bed. Do you:
  • a) Run like the wind and flag down a car at the first road you come to?
  • b) Stay put and make a fire so the emergency spotter helicopters will find you?
  • c) Refuse to leave and insist that you go yomping across the wilderness with him, to help him get where he needs to go? (Oh – and help him get the extra money he needs after that bank robbery didn’t turn up quite enough.)

In case you’re wondering, the answer, for Jack Mattingly, is C.

But why would a nice, middle class kid, who happens to have a genius IQ, willingly go on the run with a desperate criminal? This is something I had to work out when I first started cooking up this tale in my head. Working out your story plot-line is a lot like the multiple choice quizzes that Jack is so good at in Car-Jacked. You have to ask yourself questions.

I’ve always loved the idea of throwing together the kind of characters who would never normally meet.

  1. Ross is a gritty Glaswegian ex-convict on a desperate mission to get to London with £100,000 for an East End crime boss. Jack is a 12-year-old who’s never even been allowed to eat a McDonald’s. Why would Jack choose to help Ross, rather than run home to his mum and dad?
  • a) Jack needed some adventure in his life.
  • b) Jack was sick of his mother.
  • c) Jack wanted to eat at McDonald’s.

The answer is:  ALL THREE

Jack’s mother, Leonie, is incredibly pushy and controlling. She is obsessed by her son’s genius and where it might take him. She controls his diet (no sugar, no junk food, no fizzy drinks) and his education (she home tutors him) and even his friends (very few other children are suitable).

Jack hasn’t had a moment to himself for as long as he can remember. It doesn’t matter how clever he is; he still has no control over his own life. And his mum’s idea of a holiday is a trip to look at peat bogs.  So, as terrifying as being car-jacked is, the chance to break free for just a day or two, is too tempting to resist.

  1. But why would Ross tolerate Jack coming along for the ride?
  • a) He’s always wanted a son
  • b) Jack’s genius thinking is extremely helpful
  • c) Ross’s mother was also a bit of a monster

The answer is: and C. As soon as he understands just how clever Jack is, Ross realises the kid might be his only chance. And later he discovers they have monster mothers in common.

This whole Q&A thing features quite a lot in Car-Jacked. I’ve been on a couple of TV quiz shows: Eggheads and The Chase. On Eggheads  I won my round (woohoo!) but not the whole thing –  and on The Chase I did appallingly. Chased out by the Governess in no time at all. (whimper)

But it was all great research for the book (the best thing about being an author is that even horribly embarrassing things are ‘material’). You’ll spot a chapter where Ross and Jack get involved in a kind of TV quiz, which draws directly on my experiences on Eggheads and The Chase, and is a kind of mash-up of the two.

And this whole Q&A thing – it’s a great plot device!

Final question:

  1. Which FCBG CBA shortlisted book are you going to vote for?
  • a) Car-Jacked
  • b) Car-Jacked
  • c) Car-jacked

THE ANSWER IS:  Entirely up to you…

Don’t forget to vote for your favourite. You must have read all the books in a category in order to vote for them. Click here to submit your vote. Voting closes on the 12th May.

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