Three Bullets

Three Bullets

By Author / Illustrator

Melvin Burgess



Age range(s)



Andersen Press Ltd




Paperback / softback




The Bloods are in control and they're desperate to turn Britain into the world they want to see: right, white, Christian supremist. Anyone who they call abnormal is a target. Amidst the chaos of civil war the country is on the move as small militia groups fight each other and a sea of refugees escapes the cities and the pursuing Bloods. When her home is destroyed in a bombing raid, Marti must strike out on a mission of her own - to save her father and get his vital software into the right hands. But Marti is mixed race and trans and has her young brother in tow. Crossing into enemy territory could prove suicidal. Yet Marti's enemies haven't reckoned with her indomitable will to survive - and the gun she carries, which has three bullets....

Find out more from author Melvin Burgess



Marti, a teenage trans girl from mixed parentage, cares about no one but herself, or so she says. Living in England whilst it is being forcefully taken over by supremacist religious fanatics, she is struggling to survive with her family on rations and in dire living conditions. When the bombing finally takes her mum, she is forced to help her little brother by Maude, her unofficially adopted sister. Marti wants to escape the potentially lethal consequences if the Bloods (Brotherhood of the Blood of Jesus) ever catch up with them, and travel to party in Amsterdam. But when Maude finds out Marti has the only remaining coded phone from her father, she insists they take it to the FNA to help fight the Bloods. Holding her father's software, it could be the only hope of reversing the brain washing of ordinary people. A risky journey and fraught with problems along the way, Marti is reticent until she finds out her father is still alive and being held by the Bloods, brainwashed himself into turning against any non-white, equal rights heretic. Will they manage to get the phone to those that can help while surviving themselves? Will Marti ever reach Amsterdam and a sense of normal life again?

Three Bullets is part of a trilogy of books written by different authors to be read in no particular order, but all connected by the world they inhabit. I cannot comment on the other two books but this one, written by Melvin Burgess, is similar to his usual style. Gritty, honest, blunt, full of violence and sexual references and suggestion, it packs no punches. We are thrown into life with Marti, quite a difficult character, who talks directly to the reader, mostly with guilt and degradation of themselves. It becomes clear quite quickly that things will not be easy for Marti, Maude and their three-year-old brother, but even I did not anticipate the level of some of the scenes. One cannot help but be drawn into Marti's life and will them to succeed, especially as we hear the changes her character goes through as she learns the importance of others and family.

The book is a clear reflection of the prejudices faced daily by people from all religions and walks of life including trans, gay, people of colour, women and the problems borne by a classed society. It is a sad prediction or indication of where life could be if these prejudices are not held at bay. It also highlights the situation for refugees and how quickly a society can find itself in that very position. The premise, setting and narration reminds me somewhat of The Handmaid's Tale in that it deals with a possible future if the world is not careful to remember equality for all.

I find Burgess' style quite detached and cold to read and this book in particular, with Marti directly addressing the reader with her cold and bravado personality, was no different. That said, I feel older teenagers will devour the book and did find myself really engaging with the little family, hoping against hope that they would reach safety without harm. Left open at the end, I have a feeling it won’t be the last we hear from Marti. Recommended for older readers.

256 pages / Reviewed by Lorraine Ansell, school librarian

Suggested Reading Age 14+


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