Sunday, October 20, 2013

Review: Jasper Jones, by Craig Silvey

Jasper Jones

Late on a hot summer night in 1965, Charlie Bucktin, a precocious and bookish boy of thirteen, is startled by an urgent knock on the window of his sleep-out. His visitor is Jasper Jones, an outcast in the regional mining town of Corrigan.

Rebellious, mixed-race and solitary, Jasper is a distant figure of danger and intrigue for Charlie. So when Jasper begs for his help, Charlie eagerly steals into the night by his side, terribly afraid but desperate to impress. Jasper takes him to his secret glade in the bush, and it's here that Charlie bears witness to Jasper's horrible discovery.

With his secret like a brick in his belly, Charlie is pushed and pulled by a town closing in on itself in fear and suspicion as he locks horns with his tempestuous mother; falls nervously in love and battles to keep a lid on his zealous best friend, Jeffrey Lu.

And in vainly attempting to restore the parts that have been shaken loose, Charlie learns to discern the truth from the myth, and why white lies creep like a curse.

In the simmering summer where everything changes, Charlie learns why the truth of things is so hard to know, and even harder to hold in his heart.
My Rating: 3.5 stars 
"I don't understand a thing about this world: about people, and why they do the things they do. The more I find out, the more I uncover, the more I know, the less I understand.

Many are boldly making the claim that this is the Australian To Kill A Mockingbird. I don't think I agree with this, in the sense that it didn't affect me as much as the latter did. The similarities are there, nonetheless. It shows the cruel world from an innocent 13-year-old's point of view, much like what To Kill A Mockingbird does.

I have to give it to Silvey, he has a lot of talent. The writing is quite absorbing and unique, and while it did take some getting used to, it started to grow on me. A bit clumpy at times, but still compelling. I might even go so far to say that this is one of the best reflection of a teen boy's voice; a quality you'd be hard-pressed to come across in YA.

Charlie is the main character of the novel. For a majority of the novel, I would describe the guy as a wimp. He's the kid that gets bullied just for being smarter than everyone else, the kid that would rather be reading than hanging out with other teens. His awkwardness and low self-confidence are shown in the tone of the writing. I don't know if I love him, or even feel a sort of bond with him, but I will say that he is very well-developed, as are the other characters.

At times, though, his thoughts seemed way too mature for a person his age. C'mon, no teen talks like a freaking philosopher all the time. We might mistake him for an old man. It simply wasn't realistic.

Jasper Jones is the town outlaw, the scapegoat of all the town's problems. If a flower dies, it's Jasper Jones' fault. If you lose your ring, Jasper stole it. Same with if a girl is murdered. You get the picture.

Which brings me to the town in which the story takes place. It's the ignorant town that is exactly how I picture one of those overly-conservative towns down in the South. They blame everything on one person, treat the Vietnamese immigrants like trash, (this is set during the Vietnam War), and just portray pure ignorance.

Where the novel fell flat, I think, is the mystery aspect. It didn't interest me at all. It could be that I didn't care much for the person that the mystery was related to, or that mystery really isn't the genre for Silvey and he should stick to coming-of-age novels.

There were way too many sub-plots the author was trying to fit into one book. What puzzled me is how many different issues there were, but the plot still managed to move SO SLOW.

I like how the Vietnam War and Cold War were brought up, adding more maturity to the novel. While only subtly alluded to, I did appreciate their mentioning and their significance during that time.

I can't help but feel that this book and the praise along with it is pretentious, which I think took away from my enjoyment of the book. I was hoping to love this, but it didn't cut it for me.


  1. Sorry this one fell flat for you, Summer. It seems so promising. I'm hoping to get my hands on a copy someday. Great review!