I haven't reviewed any books here, or been on for a while, since my day job has taken all the time I would like to use for writing and reading. Meaning I had hardly read anything or written anything or had any time to write about the things I had written, never mind written any new things of my own.
It's not been a huge amount of fun.
Casting around for a recommendation, and carefully avoiding my TBR pile, my agent Molly suggested Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith. And I would suggest everyone should read it, because it really is extremely good.
It's stunningly odd in places, but I can't represent this in good conscience by quoting because although there are lines that- out of context and to a reader uninitiated in Austin's super-strong voice- would be thrillingly weird and exciting, I really feel it's best to leave the stranger elements unspoken and unhinted at. When the oddity is normalised by the intense internal logic of Smith's world and the gripping authenticity of Austin's voice, it will give greater delight than merely ogling from outside.
This a novel that really chimes with the way I like my stories; real life, but having taken a step into the shadows, into the surreal. It captures a teenage boy's mind with quite alarming sharpness, is howlingly funny, is original and builds the story in satisfying layers. Teenage sexuality is represented with humour and sensitivity in a manner that is truly enviable.
This is just the book I needed to read after a bit of a lay-off and when I'm trying to find my way back into writing book two. It's given me a real shake and reminded me of the freedoms and possibilities that exist in writing for children and young adults.
For anyone interested in writing YA fiction, this book is an essential read; it is bold and confident and has a powerful voice.
For anyone interested in reading YA fiction, this book is an essential read; I wish I'd read it when I was 14- it would have blown my mind.