Book Review, Middle Grade Fiction, Young Adult

BOOK REVIEW: Payback by M.A. Griffin

– Short Review –

Payback in essence is a retelling of Robin Hood with a modern day twist, it could be a sign of things to come as young people start to battle against the powers that be and the injustice in the world. M.A. Griffin delivers a timely political thriller for the young adult market and I expect that this book will find its mark with the disenfranchised youth of today and will give people the courage to stand up fight the good fight! There is much to like about this book and one of the key things for me was the characters that M.A. Griffin has created, I am sure there are many young people who would be able to see themselves and their peers in the people Griffin brings to life on the page.

Other books you may like Noughts and Crosses by Malorie Blackman, The Hate You Give by Angie Thomas and More Than This by Patrick Ness.

– Long Review –

Payback is a great book, it’s a book that talks about the times we are living in now, shedding a light on the youth of today who for the first time in a long while have a voice of their own – whether this be through social media, YouTube channels and vlogging – or the fact that debating has taken off in schools in the UK for the first time. Young people today have a voice and it is being heard more than ever. So Payback delves into some culturally relevant issues in an engaging and thought provoking way.

In essence the book is a retelling of the tale of Robin Hood – but set in modern day, with a group called ‘Payback‘ who steal from the rich or those that have wronged people and give the money they make from the heists to the poor less affluent areas of where they live or where the job takes place. At first I was a little concerned that the book would just be about stealing, that it was glamourising this act – oh what a problem we would have had then! But M.A. Griffin does a fine job at bringing a moral conscious to his main protagonist Tom and masterfully brings the story to its conclusion.

Tom is an impressionable young adult, who has been following the antics of Payback on social media and YouTube and after a chance encounter and a bit of detective work he finds himself now in the inner circle of the gang – his life will never be the same again. At first Tom is a bit of a fanboy, finding himself actually hanging around with the heroes he has idolised for what seems like forever, doing small jobs until he has earned their trust, but as the heists get bigger and one of their jobs goes slightly wrong – we soon learn that payback is what some people are looking for!

I enjoyed the way that M.A. Griffin had his gang dressed in Fox masks, possibly a subtle hint at the gang being the vermin of the street. I thought that this little touch helped put the gang in perspective and was a way in which he could say a lot without saying much. Payback has many a set piece that are thrilling to read and as the noose draws tighter around the gangs necks, as the police get closer to finding the gang and the people seeking the gang to impart justice of a different kind…Payback becomes quite literally a page turner.

The book is a fabulous read and there are many parts of it that I found enjoyable, I particularly relished the reasonings behind their crimes – M.A. Griffin does a brilliant job of not glamorising this type of act (which I was worried about), instead he adds a political twist to each job, so the reader can see the reasonings for such actions – it’s also quite on the money with what young people are thinking about today (I used to work in schools and he’s nailed the thought processes of the young people of today – and what they care about) so I am sure this book will find its audience across the country with young adults and middle grade readers – I feel the book will also be a great step-up to lengthier fiction for children.

If you are looking for something that is a quick read, that has elements of a political nature, if you love thriller / crime writing then look no further than Payback – a great introduction for young people to some deep culturally relevant themes.

Payback is published by Chicken House Books and is available here.

M.A. Griffin


M.A. Griffin won the Times/Chicken House Children’s Fiction Competition with The Poison Boy in 2012, writing under the name Fletcher Moss. He works as an assistant head teacher at a school in Greater Manchester, having previously worked as a classroom teacher, shelf-stacker and van driver in France and Spain. Lifers is his first book for older readers.

Reviewed by Ross Jeffery

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