Archive | August, 2012

Grow Up – Ben Brooks

17 Aug

Publisher: House of Anansi Press
Released:  May 12, 2012
Genre: YA contemp
Review copy from publisher

YouTube suicides, possible pregnancies, drug comedowns, and getting straight As — meet Jasper: a seventeen-year-old with his hands full. Weekdays are packed with visits to the psychologist, mounting parental pressure to achieve in school, scouring the Internet for porn, and trying to figure out whether his stepfather murdered his ex-wife. Weekends are focused on finding the next party, the best drugs, and sex — preferably with Georgia Treely — but really with anyone he can get.

From House of Anansi Press website.

First of all, the fact that the author is nineteen is INSANE! This is the first book by a teen that I’ve not only been able to get through, but that I absolutely loved.

This book is wrong on so many levels, which is what makes it absolutely amazing. I mean, Jasper is a seriously f-cked up dude. I would not want to sit next to him on a bus, in a class or anywhere for that matter. The inner workings of this kid’s brain makes me once again thankful for my decision not to have kids. But despite this fact I couldn’t get enough of him. He was so brilliantly written that I was FASCINATED with him from the first line.

If you have any issue with sex or drug use in books, stay away. Far, far away. Cuz Grow Up has plenty of both.  But neither came off as being sensational or thrown in for shock factor. Sex and drugs are just such an integral part of Jasper’s life.

This book is set in Britain, so some of the grammar and such took a bit of getting used to. But there was tea drinking in almost every scene, which made me love it all the more. 🙂

While there were a couple of different plots in Grow Up, this was definitely a character driven book. And with Jasper being such a different, strong, weird character, it set the perfect tone.

If you like your YA contempt very real, very gritty, and at times very screwed up, then I can’t recommend Grow Up enough.

The Maladjusted – Derek Hayes

14 Aug

Publisher: Thistledown Press
Released: September 15, 2011
Genre: short stories
Review copy from publisher

These urban, commuter-friendly stories capture quirky events in satisfying ways. Their dark undertones and sharp-witted ironies employ familiar settings such as apartments, lofts, studios and city streets , but use unusual and unexpected urban moments as backdrops to outré characters and their given idiosyncrasies.

Some of Hayes’ characters are on the social fringe, such as the mentally challenged narrator of the title story who finds his way through urban life with the aid of his seventy-year-old neighbour and the possibilities inherent in a game of chess. Some obsess privately, such as the protagonist in “The Runner” who becomes neurotically repulsed by the hair follicles on his girlfriend’s upper lip, while others, like the proven street ball “cager” of the story “In the Low Post” stews over his eroding prestige and control on the inner-city basketball court.

Edgy, smart and unpredictable, Derek Hayes’ stories bend linear story-telling, and shift the narrative voices with such an energetic frequency that readers will want to go back again just to them just to see how he does it.

From Thisteldown Press website.

Maybe it’s because I’m more than a little off-centered myself, but I love reading about weird, awkward, marginal characters. And Derek Haye’s The Maladjusted is filled to the brim with them.

I think it’s so cool that the way he wrote each short story was so straightforward and open that just the telling was enough for me be sympathetic towards the characters.  He didn’t delve too much into explaining why a certain character was on the fridge: he told their story and just the simple fact of seeing how they handle themselves in a certain situation was enough to get a solid feel for the character.

And he never made any of the characters a caricature.  There were no arch-types in this book, nope. And I loved that sometimes the one that you thought was the maladjusted actually wasn’t.

I have no problem admitting that I identified with quite a few of the characters and what they were going through and how they were dealing with it. And I think that’s part of the brilliance of this book. Cuz really we’re all a little maladjusted.