Wednesday, 18 July 2012
Review: Jasper Jones by Craig Silvey
Jasper Jones is the resident outcast in the small town of Corrigan. His name is the first on everybody's lips when anything goes wrong. So when, one hot summer night, something goes very, very wrong, Jasper desperately searches out help - and comes across the light in the window of our protagonist, Charlie. With one impulsive action, Charlie is pulled into a mystery that will turn his world upside down and the reader is pulled into a story that stays long after the final page has been turned.
I have to admit, I've been dreading writing this review. Because I just want to fangirl and say "READ IT! READ IT! READ IT!" but the book is so beautiful and brilliant, it deserves better than that. So I'm going to try and muster up some sentences that are more coherent than "ZOMG I LOOOOOOOOOOOOVE THIS BOOK I WANT TO MARRY IT AND HAVE TEN OF ITS BABIES." Here goes...
The story itself is amazing. The central mystery has just the right amount of suspense and plot twists, while the coming-of-age aspect is masterfully weaved through a series of incidents that are by turns thrilling, hilarious, bittersweet, heartbreaking and hopeful. The language is simple but exquisite, with authentic dialogue and honest narration that effectively evokes the tense atmosphere of the mid-1960s town, along with Charlie's own internal struggles. It's one of those books that gives you that edge-of-your-seat feeling, as you anticipate what happens next with excitement or dread - and sometimes both. It's telling that one of my favourite scenes was a play-by-play of a cricket match, which was more exciting than actually watching a game. Craig Silvey is a freaking marvel.
All of the characters, even minor players, are well-rounded and realistic. Charlie himself is a sympathetic and likable narrator. Even when his actions are questionable, you really feel for him and understand where he is coming from. As for the eponymous Jasper Jones, he remains an enigma who takes on almost mythical qualities through the eyes of Charlie. But my absolute favourite character was Charlie's best friend, Jeffery Lu. The son of Vietnamese immigrants, Jeffery's unfailing optimism in the face of bigotry and bullying brought tears to my eyes, while the rapport between he and Charlie made me laugh out loud.
The blurb on the cover of Jasper Jones calls it "an Australian To Kill a Mockingbird" and I can see why. There are obvious parallels between the two - the examination of race relations in a small town in the not-too-distant past; the use of a youthful narrator and the exploration of what it means to grow up; the scorching summer setting that adds to the heated and claustrophobic atmosphere; the disappointment and then ultimate admiration a son feels for his father; the misunderstood recluse... not to mention the sheer brilliance of the writing. While the comparison is apt and to his credit, the true beauty of Jasper Jones is in the way Silvey takes all these features and makes them truly his own and uniquely Australian.
In summary: READ IT! READ IT! READ IT!
Published: Allen & Unwin, 2010
Get It: Booktopia