Tony's Reviews > Grow Up
by Ben Brooks
by Ben Brooks
If you want a window into the world of contemporary suburban middle-class English teenage life, this is the book for you. It's narrated by Jasper, a seventeen-year-old boy with all the characteristics of many of his ilk: self-absorbed, sometimes thoughtful, sometimes charming, often irritating, generally scheming to avoid studying and on the lookout for maximum sex, drugs, booze, and good times with his friends. Although the book is sometimes quite winning and amusing, Jasper's narration can also veer unevenly between bursts of insight and unbelievable idiocy. One subplot involves his belief that his mother's live-in boyfriend murdered his ex-wife, and his pseudo investigation in an attempt to bring evidence to light. It just comes across as ridiculous that even someone as flighty as Jasper would wander as far down that road of self-delusion as he does. And that detracts from the general realism of the rest of the book, which is quite good at depicting bored teenagers killing time with drinks, bad TV, video games, sex, and the like. It's not salacious or sensationalistic in any sense, just matter of fact in a way that only a writer confident of their subject matter can pull off. (The author was a teenager when writing the book, hence the ring of authenticity). Still, despite the relatively strong portrayal of that milieu, I never found the misadventures of an annoying teenage guy all that compelling, especially as some of his treatment of other people (especially girls) is downright awful. I guess that's the reality of teenage guys, but it's not a reality I needed to spend more time with.
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