Anthony Swofford (4 stars)

Exit A (Simon & Schuster)

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MILITARY DRAMA

It comes as no surprise that Anthony Swofford, a military base kid raised in the US and Japan, should set his debut work of fiction in that very same environment. After the success of the bestselling and critically acclaimed memoir Jarhead, Exit A equally compels as it follows the lives of football-mad Severin Boxx, the 17-year-old son of an Air Force pilot and the daughter of the general who runs the base, the Bonnie & Clyde-obsessed rebel Virginia Kindwall.

Intoxicating descriptions of Tokyo sit alongside depictions of the oppressive and sterile Americanised base camp as this captivating romance between two very complex characters unfolds, expertly woven through subplots of underground crime, kidnapping and political unrest. We follow our two protagonists over a 16-year period and watch their controlled upbringing take its toll, with a glimmer of hope running throughout which keeps us utterly gripped until the very end.

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