Synopsis from Goodreads.
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.
I guess when you finish a book that you absolutely loved and you sit down, notebook fill of coherent notes, to start writing a review it’s easy to start using clichés. I find this is especially true when it comes to those Australian authors.
You’ve heard it before, haven’t you?
Is there something in the water Down Under?
Well, I don’t think there is. Nope, not at all. You don’t see me reverting to those tired and ridiculous clichés, do you?
My suggestion as to why these Aussie authors are so ridiculously good? There’s something in the shrimps that they put on all those barbies.
In all seriousness though, this book is good. Great. Cracking. Brilliant. All the superlatives you can think of. I don’t really want to talk too much about the plot because this book is a mystery, both in plot and character. But right from the beginning, so full of suspense and unease, to the breathless “thisiswhathappened” ending, I was completely captivated.
The characters are brilliant, especially Jasper Jones although I so desperately wanted more of him. Although saying that, I’m a bit torn in this aspect because I adored him when he was on the page and I loved the interactions between him and Charlie… but I loved the mystery and intrigue around the character even more. Misunderstood and with a heart of pure gold; Jasper Jones is the kind of boy who you’d want to go on adventures with. Sure you’d come back from those adventures slightly sunburnt and dishevelled with random insects in your hair, scraped knees and faced with the inevitable grounding from your parents but it would always be with it. Simply put, I loved him and my heart ached for him.
Also, I had lots and lots of time for Eliza. Such a little sweetheart.
I also loved how multi-faceted this book was. If I told you just what the basic plot of this story was (which I’m not going to) I would probably be missing about 75% of what this book actually covered. History, racism, Australian culture, prejudice, the subtle interactions between families, the damage of secrets and rumours and cricket (yeah, I could have probably have done without the cricket aspect of things. Cricket, to me, is a game we were forced to play in PE at high school when it was too sunny for bench ball.) Mr Silvey perfectly balances all of these issues without being overly clunky and preachy.
A little bit unrelated and possibly a little thematic spoilery, I often wonder how the context in which you read a book effects how you feel about it. It was a complete coincidence that I read this book the weekend when this had been in the news once more. I had no idea what this book was about before I picked it up so it was quite daunting to read a book that, although set in the 60s felt so current. It’s difficult to put into words how that whole story affected and still continues to affect the British public so it was strange to read this book with that very much in my mind (they also have a brief mention in this book). I know I would have found Jasper Jones moving if I had read it a few months ago but would it have affected as much as it did? I don’t know but it certainly left an impression on me and proved to be a great deal more topical than I thought it was going to be.
One of my favourite things about Australian YA books is the sense of place that the authors create and Jasper Jones is no exception. It takes a lot to be transported from a clammy, rainy town in Greater Manchester to the bone dry, dusty, desolate Western Australian town but for the few hours it took me to read this book, I honestly was.
The scene, the story, the writing and the characters combined with the wonderfully cinematic and satisfactory ending (where all those story threads that you so desperately want to have been tied up into a lovely bow are still dancing in the Australian breeze and you wouldn’t want it any other way) this book was glorious and definitely not a book that has been puffed up by the hype.
At the end of the day, this book was what would happen if you took a copy of Jellicoe Road and Brown Skin Blue and smushed them together making loud kissing noises. I’m not sure if you’re going to get a higher recommendation than that from me.
More, you say?
Under the Covers || Jasper Jones.