Author: Ben Brooks
Date Read: 7th August 2016
“Who says youth is wasted on the young?
One thing I have learned from being alive for seventeen years is that people like to touch things very much.
Things that people like to touch: Vaginas. Expensive things in shops. Jelly that is not ready to eat yet. Cigarette lighters. Necks. Dead Things. Dogs. Piercings. Toddlers’ cheeks. Each other’s knees.
People also like to touch death.”
After reading the blurb of this book (which let me just say is very interesting!), I knew that this book about being a teenager would be a good one. I finished the book in a day, needless to say I enjoyed it! I really like books that are about the emotional experience of being a teenager, going through puberty and growing up in general. Either it’s a book that you can entirely relate to or you just become so fascinated by the author’s perspective of an experience of growing up. I found this book wasn’t one that I could particularly relate to but could understand through it’s hilarity and sarcastic tones.
Jasper, the male protagonist, was very interesting to read about, he was a very dark and complex character. Throughout the book Jasper has sex with 4 different girls, takes a variety of drugs (legal and illegal), gets drunk, procrastinates from revising, rebels from parental authority and meanwhile beneath all of this the reader is invited to listen to his internal monologue. Despite this being a experience being specific to Jasper’s story, it also is quite a generalised experience too, because growing up is experienced by everyone and so the confusion and conflicts that Jasper encounters are ones that the reader may identify with too.
The book deals with themes such as teenage angst, relationships, sex and on a more serious level: drugs, depression, and self-harm (trigger warning: the details of the self-harm aren’t overly descriptive but may be upsetting or triggering for some readers). The book was sarcastic and cynical in its attitudes towards alcohol, sex and drugs not unlike real life teenagers. Written in quite a moody and dark style, it manages to really create the internal struggle that Jasper is going through in his teenage years. For me it really brought to light the pressure boys are under to act a certain way: by not crying in fear of appearing weak, drinking lots in fear of appearing weak. All pressures which are inflicted as a result of the patriarchal society we live in cough sorrynotsorry *cough. It was quite a light-hearted way of informing the reader the aspects in which boys/males are oppressed as a result of the patriarchy and that it’s not just a system which oppresses women!
It is very much a book detailing the journey of puberty and late teenage years, where the discovery of sex, drugs and alcohol is discovered alongside the need to be/act/look a certain way – which is quite realistic and pressures that everyone is under whether they accept it or not. The themes of the book are definitely similar to that of The Manifesto on How to be Interesting by Holly Bourne (one of my favourite books!), so if you’ve read that and want a similar book this is definitely one to pick up or vice-versa. I would recommend this book if you want something realistic yet funny, light and easy to read.
By Beth Morley