Book review

Dosh by Robert Swindells (1999)

Bullying only works because the victims don't fight back - right? One victim, alone, against a gang of bullies would be frightened of what might happen. But if there are a lot of victims, and they all decide to fight back together, what happens then?

'Well ... it's a numbers thing really.'

There's a protection racket in operation at Cottoncroft Comprehensive School. Every kid who works pays ten per cent of his earnings to the gang who call themselves Push. That's everyone who works - whether it is peeling onions in the pickle factory, chopping and bagging leeks on a distant vegetable farm, or delivering the Sunday papers for the local newsagent. Hard work, and there's not much sign of a national minimum wage round here. If the kids don't want to work for peanuts, there are others who will.

There are six members of Push at Cottoncroft Comp, three girls and three boys, and they are careful not to draw attention to themselves at school. They are model pupils in the classroom and ruthless round the back of the bike sheds:

She draws back her foot and kicks the fallen girl in the face, bursting her nose. Lauren covers up, spluttering. Lois bends over her. 'Show yourself to your mates tomorrow. Say this is what happens to kids who think they don't have to pay.'

Push is operated, distantly, by Charles Flitcroft, who runs a small legitimate business from his office on the town's main street, and any racket he can dream up from the back yard shed. One way or another, he makes enough to keep his wife comfortable, in her white Mercedes. But he is tempted by greed to get into something bigger than he can handle - an internet pornography ring asks him to supply young people for 'parties'. And he makes the big mistake of under-estimating the effect a few defiant children can have on his grand plan.

At school, someone pins a notice on the board between the changing-room doors:

Meeting 3.30 Monday Year 12 common room.
Subject: Push dosh and how not to pay.
All working kids welcome.

The meeting is well-attended and Pull is born:

John Passmore in Year Twelve said we should get together, refuse to pay. He says if everybody does it it'll be all right. It's called Pull.'
'Huh?' Dorothy frowns. 'What's called Pull? What you on about, kiddo?'
'The organization. It's called Pull, like all pull together, y'know? It starts today.'

But their aim isn't just to stop paying the ten per cent to Push - they want to bring about the downfall of Flitcroft himself. And for that they need evidence. It's just a pity for Flitcroft that he took on the 'party' business at the wrong moment. His empire is about to crumble ...

This is a well-told, fast-moving story with a satisfying end. Because of the mature content it is appropriate for older readers. Excellent book!

What can I read next?

Robert Swindells has written a lot of books, some for younger readers and some for older readers. If you enjoy Dosh and want to look at a similar Robert Swindells book, you could try:

  • Smash!

If it is difficulties at school which interest you, you might like to look at these two by Michael Coleman:

  • Tag
  • Weirdo's War

Gillian Cross writes excellent stories set around schoolfriends in difficulties:

Anne Fine has written a light-hearted story about a class of boys all pulling together:

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