Jasper Jones by Craig Silvey : Book Review

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I am ecstatic over this novel. Jasper Jones is one of those special novels that really shows you how powerful stories and writing can be be. How significant an author is and how writers and stories really do have an integral role in the world. I will always believe that. I admire all artists and I believe we have to have art because life is not always enough without it. But there is just something about writers that I admire above all else. Their ability to make sense of the world, to question humanity, to deliver stories and new and interesting ways is amazing. I hope one day I’ll be able to call myself a writer and not just a reader. I hope one day I’ll be able to join the likes of Australian novelists such as Gail Jones and Craig Silvey.

Silvey is a brilliant, brilliant writer. I really am in awe of him. The way he has managed to craft a story that makes you feel everything, that’s full of humour and sadness, that doesn’t shy away from being incredibly honest, that explores young love, death, racism and inhumanity (among many other things) in surprising and unpredictable ways is remarkable. I am beyond impressed. Definitely keen to read his other novels (though he’s only written a few) and see how he tackles other issues, stories and characters.

Like I always say, it’s going to be a tough feat to really inform you just how amazing Jasper Jones is and how much I loved it and how I plead for you to read it as soon as you can get your hands on it and not let it sit on your shelf for years like I did. This is a novel that deserves to be read. And re-read. How ever many times.

It took me on a journey. Yeah, that’s a really dumb thing to say, but it’s the best way I can describe it. While I was reading this, I was completely taken away into Charlie’s (the third book I’ve read lately with a character called Charlie – and as much as I love this Charlie, no one beats my brother Charlie. But moving on –) world and let everything he goes through in the course of the novel wash over me and wash my own life away. It was bliss and also difficult because the novel deals with some horrible issues/events, some of them true stories. But a book that can make you forget about your own worries and can also really make you think about the world you live in is a really important part of the reading experience for me. Sometimes books can be a distraction, sure, but at the moment I need books like that. Jasper Jones certainly did it for me. It took me to unexpected places and kept me guessing and it was literally torture (well maybe not that literally but whatever) to put it down. I just had to know what was going to happen next. There was no time in the novel when I was bored with the plot or the characters.

Speaking of the characters, they are wonderful (and if not they’re wonderfully awful). Charlie is pretty perfect, with his love for books and writing, his wit, his fear of insects, his infatuation with Eliza, his qualms with in/humanity, his awkwardness. His voice throughout the novel is really entertaining. You really get to understand everything he is feeling, from guilt to fear to anxiety to love. He’s so well crafted I almost thought this was actually a real story and he was a real person. Charlie’s best friend Jeffrey Lu is a major highlight of the novel. He’s hilarious and his and Charlie’s banters about superheroes and The Wizard of Oz and hypotheticals are so great. Plus, a character has to be pretty damn impressive to make some like me (even momentarily) like and care about cricket. But Jeffrey’s part in the story isn’t only for laughs, but comes alongside blatant racism, and a lot of it. Jasper Jones himself, though he isn’t as central to the plot as you might expect, is a great character, one who is wrongly accused and shunned by the township of Corrigan because he’s a half-caste. He lives a difficult life and the events of the novel with him in it are distressing. But I won’t give anything away. Eliza is a great character as well, but I can’t really say much about her without giving away the plot. I can only mention a really fantastic scene that involves Jeffrey, Eliza, Charlie and a hypothetical question: ‘would you rather wear a hat made of spiders, or have penises for fingers?’ Hilarious! Really, it is. But moving on before I give away any of the other brilliant, witty jokes. There are a many pretty awful characters too, including Charlie’s mum and some other townspeople that are hateful and abusive and racist. But, again, you’ll have to read the novel to find out. Don’t worry though, not all the adults are bad. Charlie’s dad is fairly cool, as are Jeffrey’s parents and there is one particular character who is not what he seems.

I can’t get over this novel. I literally can’t say anything else without running into some major spoilers. All I can say now is that you will not be disappointed reading this novel. It’s truly a delight to read, but also a novel to read lightly. It’s not all fun and games, that’s for sure. Which makes it even better because it’s about something real, the real things that happen in this world and in Australia. Very important things – yeah, even the cricket and the superhero debate.  I implore you to read it. This is a novel unlike any other and I’ll say it again, it really, really deserves to be read. I can tell you, this is definitely a novel going on my to be re-read list. How ever many times. A lot, really.


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