2009 was the Year of Jasper Jones. It won plenty of awards and everyone was talking about it. Unfortunately, I’m a bit behind the times and have only just managed to read it. But I can vouch for the fact that it lives up to the accolades, so anyone else running a bit late has a rare treat ahead of them!
The novel is set in the 1960s in the sleepy country town of Corrigan. It is narrated by Charlie Bucktin, a bright but awkward teenager, and is about the summer which will change his life forever. One hot and sleepless night Charlie’s reading is interrupted by a knock on the window. Surprisingly it is Jasper Jones, the cool and rebellious town misfit who wants to share a secret discovery with Charlie. Despite his misgivings, Charlie follows Jasper, and thus becomes inextricably bound up in a mystery that will affect the whole town.
Charlie is a great character, keeping his sense of humour as he navigates his way through those tricky teenage years – falling in love for the first time, having run-ins with his parents, and all the while keeping Jasper’s dreadful secret. Craig Silvey has captured the claustrophobia of a fearful and suspicious community sweltering through an Australian summer, and the tension is palpable. It’s a great story beautifully written, and Craig Silvey is certainly a talent to watch. If you haven’t read it yet, it’s time! Paperback, $24.