The Story of X
is a brutal and uncompromising, first person account of twelve months
in the life of a fifteen year old boy.
Jack (he never reveals his real
name) runs away from home the day after his birthday to escape the
attentions of his mother’s paedophile boyfriend. His departure is
well planned because he has read the novels of Andy McNab and Chris
Ryan as well as books about the Long Range Desert Group in North
Africa during the Second World war.
Once in London, he moves into a
squat and goes on the streets, ‘mooching’ (begging) for his
He is recruited with some other
teenagers by an armed vigilante group called The Millers. The Millers
are funded by a wealthy recluse whose grand-daughter has died as a
result of drug addiction. They are determined to put a stop to
dealers who target young kids and, as Jack’s sister has taken her
own life as a result of addiction, he is immediately attracted to the
group and its aims. The Millers are mainly former special forces
soldiers who train Jack and the other recruits in covert operations
including unarmed combat, how to avoid and deal with antagonistic
surveillance and tailing operations, and how to infiltrate the drug
gangs and collect intelligence.
Jack is paired with a young
Chinese girl, code-named Lizzie, and they infiltrate a drugs ring,
pretending to deal in cocaine but, in fact, on the insistence of The
Millers, destroying all they receive and paying the gang with money
received from The Millers. Inevitably, at their age and in their
circumstances, they start sleeping together but, although Jack makes
the sexual relationship explicit, the references are not graphic and
we don’t normally follow them into the bedroom.
Their infiltration of the gang
goes wrong when another gang attacks with the objective of taking
over the operation. Several people are killed and Jack and his
girlfriend are taken prisoner. One of the attacking gang, on the
pretext of searching Lizzie, indecently assaults her. Jack loses his
cool, head butts Lizzie’s attacker and, in the ensuing mêlée,
despite their being bound hand and foot, they kill him. Nevertheless,
they are recruited into the gang and appear to be selling cannabis to
young children but, as before, they destroy the drug and provide
information to The Millers.
They gradually become
assimilated into the gang but The Millers aren’t all they had
seemed to be. They are intent on killing the gangsters,
not merely making the information available
to the police. Jack and Lizzie are appalled
but feel there isn’t much they can do
because they have themselves now become
compromised and have killed the gangster who was assaulting Lizzie.
The Millers effectively blackmail them into continued support but
promise they will not be involved in the actual attack on the
But another of the teenagers,
not herself so compromised, says she cannot accept The Millers’
intentions. She says she will report the matter to the authorities
but, she says, she will give Jack and Lizzie time to get away. The
Millers get to hear of her intentions which prompts them to bring
forward the attack – to a date when, unknown to them, Lizzie and
Jack are present at the gangsters’ hideout.
They survive the initial attack
but, in the aftermath, Lizzie is fatally wounded by one of The
Millers – in fact the one who had first
recruited them. Jack is devastated and his self-told story
disintegrates as he is convicted of crimes he can scarcely remember
and is incarcerated in a young offenders’ institution.