Review: Jasper Jones by Craig Silvey

Jasper Jones

by Craig Silvey

Late on a hot summer night at the tail-end of 1965, Charlie Bucktin, a precocious and bookish boy of thirteen, is startled by an urgent knock on the window of his sleepout. His visitor is Jasper Jones, an outcast in the 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 steals into the night by his side, terrified but desperate to impress. Jasper takes him through town to his secret glade in the bush, and it’s here that Charlie bears witness to Jasper’s horrible discovery.

Carrying the secret like a brick in his belly, Charlie is harried by a suspicious town tightening in fear. In the simmering summer where everything changes, he locks horns with his tempestuous mother, falls nervously in love, and battles to keep a lid on his zealous best friend, Jeffery 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; why the truth of things is so hard to know, and even harder to hold in his heart.

I had heard only wonderful things about this book before I received the review copy to read, I began reading it with trepidation, what if I didn’t love it, what if I found out everyone had been lying to me? Would this be another book that I ended up cursing at the end because it didn’t fulfil my expectations? Well it turns out that I didn’t need to worry, this is an amazing book, extremely well written with lovely descriptive prose, he knows his characters and he writes about them well. I found that I needed to keep telling myself that the main characters were only 13-14 (not the 16-18 that I kept reverting them to in my brain).

I did find some of the chapters were repeating a lot of what had happened, but I thought that this was done on purpose, to keep the story aimed at the younger audience, who do need the repetition to be able to get the comprehension and understanding of a complex story.  And the banter between Jeffery and Charlie is exactly how I would imagine young boys talking when they are best friends and spend a lot of time together. Debates over who is better, Batman or Superman, long talks about girls and sex, lots of trash talk about cricket and sporting skills.

It also covered a lot of ground regarding parental and child relationships and how they evolve and develop over time as the kids get older and more mature, it touches briefly on how suffocating living in a small town can be. And tells how no-one will ever really know what goes on behind closed doors, apart from those suffering and experiencing it.

My favourite character would have to be Mad Jack Lionel, hands down. He is a misunderstood lonely old man, who has lost everything. The town is terrified of him, the school kid’s dare each other to go and steal his peaches (at risk of certain death), and it’s not until well near the end of the book that we learn the truth and history of Jack Lionel, who has played a pivotal part in the entire book. By the end of the book his secrets are still kept from the rest of the town, which does finish the story off nicely.

Recommended Retail Price: $23.99

Published by: Allen and Unwin

Recommended Age: 16+

My Rating: 4.5/5

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