My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Jasper Jones has come to my window.
I have been in love with Jasper Jones for a long time. Long before I broke the spine of the book. But that is none of your concern.
Jasper Jones isn’t really a murder mystery, or thriller, or about separating myths from truths. It’s just an instance of racism and small town conservativeness. About what can come of it if you throw a fire and lay-offs and murders and fucking army selection in the mix.
It’s always the recluse and the different that get blamed.
Jasper Jones is an added bonus.
It tackles racism in the tiny town of Corrigan but it doesn’t absolve anybody of their shit. The wicked aren’t punished and the just aren’t justified. Shit goes on.
What happened in Corrigan happens in Corrigan.
Shit luck and chance.
Story of life, as they say.
Charlie Bucktin, the MC, is a nerd with the nerdy problems of bullies and shyness. Then Jasper Jones comes to his window and boy, does he bring baggage. Charlie was the perfect voice to be the medium of this story. His voice becomes contemplative and unbelievably mature sometimes, but then it’s downright dorky and kiddish and thus, as the mood of the book swings, from ‘with Jasper’ to ‘without Jasper normal life’ to ‘alone in deep shit’, it indeed sets the requisite atmosphere.
Jasper Jones speaks the whole truth in a town of liars.
Life might be easier if you give in a little, but it’s better if you hold on to something so hard you can’t give it up.
“Your reign is over! Pure talent has prevailed.”
There are also inner discussions on the world and the crap that goes on in it. Interesting monologues that every kid has had with themself at least on a superficial level, I believe, if not to such depth as Charlie.
A world that kills parents and makes orphans of children and kicks away cricket balls and lies through its sharp teeth. That makes a decent person feel like rubbish all his life because he’s poorer and browner and motherless. That hosts three billion folks, each of them as lonely as the other. A world that’s three-quarters water, none of which can quench your thirst.
There are not many characters in this story but the ones there actually are, they are paid importance. Even the wife of the president of the town council is given some characterization, some personality, even though she was framed in just a few sentences, a few scenes. Even the people we don’t meet in this novel are built up with conversations.
So much so that I was able to deduce that this could very well have been Please Ignore Vera Dietz were it written from a specific side character’s POV.
Heck, Jasper Jones is the title and he’s such a complex and real person, and he is there only for 35%(guess-est.) of the novel.
And Craig Silvey gets you to care for each and every one of them, even the budding psychopath. Well, except for the ones you don’t.
The story is set in a hot summer during the Cold War and there’s the budding resentment towards Red Rats* and the general stuffiness of the season in the background.
Charlie’s best friend, Jeffery Lu, is an immigrant and he plays yet another role in demonstrating the bigotry festering in small towns.
Jeffrey hops up and shadowboxes, huffing “I’m so pretty, I’m so pretty” under his breath.
Whenever there’s a lull, especially in the middle of the book, Jeffery and Charlie’s idiotic and clinical conversations, somewhat akin to Marco and Stephen from Marco Impossible, more than make up for it.
“Pffft! That’s barely your wicket. That one goes down to the Law of Averages. Or the Infinite Monkey Theory. Or both. If enough chimps hurl balls at a master for long enough, eventually he’s going to tire of belting them all over the place and make an uncharacteristic mistake.”
“It must be exhausting.”
“No, the constant kissing of your own arse.”
All that aside, Charlie has problems of his own that have been intruding in his life long before Jasper Jones. Mainly his mother. The ending with her, however, felt a bit cowardly to me. It sure was consistent with her behavior and plausible but something about it just doesn’t sit right with me.
There isn’t a happy ending, per se, for anyone in this book but the last paragraph…
That’s called a figurative blow to the heart and mind. Or to the gut, more likely.
The writing is nothing different but damn, it’s beautiful. It keep on gaining momentum with simple and straightforward sentences most of the time, and then drops
It was the saddest, angriest constellation of words she’d ever traced with her eyes.
And fuck, it seems like,”When the fuck did that turn into this?”
In fact, it reminded me of On the Jellicoe Road very much.
But little, insignificant things conspired and ultimately, I can’t bring myself to give it five stars. Mostly because it almost made me cry but not a single tear was shed. It is true, though, that I have stone heart and I don’t usually cry.
It’s really just about prejudice and how fatal it can be, how it ruins lives. Innocent lives. How rumors and myths go out of hand. Something that has been aptly described by Phaedra from Lumatere-
If your people mean no offense, they should not speak their thoughts out loud in front of their children, Tesadora. Because it will be their children who come to slaughter us one day, all because of the careless words passed down by their elders who meant no harm.
Do I recommend this book? Heck yeah! I mean, I have already used three of my all time favorite books to describe it and if you love even of them, go and read it and don’t breathe ’til you finish it.
Now, lemme go and cry over Jellicoe because this book’s brought out the worst and the best nostalgic book memories I have…
And Jasper Jones doesn’t come.
*which is a very offensive term for Vietnamese, invented by some fucking, dip-shitting asshole and dude, the fuck does it mean?