I bought Jasper Jones on a recommendation, even though, strictly speaking, it’s not a book specifically for a YA audience. Should I be only buying YA books? That is a topic for another blog post (ooh, I so want to write one now, so I can come back and link from this point).
Anyway, Jasper Jones. What do we think of the cover, people? Let me know. I had it to read for a couple of months, then I finally went to hear Craig Silvey speak at the Brisbane Writer’s Festival (on a Saturday. How’s that for commitment to you fellas?). He was part of a panel who were talking about the coming-of-age themes and he spoke very intelligently about what he was trying to achieve with the book. He says he was trying to create an Australian equivalent to the Southern American Gothic novel. His influences are clear in the narrative and themes. The narrator often refers to To Kill a Mocking Bird and Truman Capote, just to mention a couple. Here is an interview I found with him, where he talks about both his novels.
This is a very confident novel. The author clearly knows what he wants and sets about giving it to us. The narrator is Charlie, an intellectual thirteen yr old, out of place in a small rural Western Australian town. He is lucky to have the incorrigible Jeffrey Lu as a best friend. Their conversations are inspired.
One night, out of the blue, the town bad boy, Jasper Jones, turns up at Charlie’s window, begging for help. And so begins the mystery of Laura Wishart. It is not a coincidence that the story is set in 1965. Silvey makes extremely good use of this innocent time, the Vietnam War and the hypocrisy of small town gossip.
This narrative is very engrossing. Charlie sees all manner of human behaviour. He experiences the very worst of it and the very best. He is a victim of bullying and the focus of young love. And Jeffrey Lu is unstoppable.
Best of all, it has an ending which is both satisfying and not desperately sad (which is what I was expecting).