Saturday, September 29, 2012

Grow Up by Ben Brooks

 The modern troubled teen... brilliant and scary


Grow Up
by Ben Brooks
Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated

Heaven help me I couldn’t put this book down. Jasper Wolf is a wayward teenager – way, way wayward. He’s living in an average suburban home in 21st century England, struggling with his A-levels, clever in his observations while rather mindlessly abusing alcohol, drugs, and the people around him. His mom and stepdad (the latter whom Jasper believes is a murderer, a plotline portrayed in hilarious fashion) try to help in their bumbling way, hiring a shrink and forcing a “schedule” on Jasper, but they don’t ever seem to actually invest any time in him. Jasper’s moral compass is a bit like Jack Sparrow’s – instead of showing him how to stay true to his course, it always points at his hearts’ immediate desire. And he never, ever denies himself whatever fancy comes to mind. His one redeeming quality is his clumsy affection for his best friend, a  somewhat more level-headed teenaged girl named Tenaya. Jasper is a modern Holden Caulfield, I thought while reading, a thought reiterated by the author in print. Grow Up is at turns offensive and engaging. I’m a 40+ year old mom with teenagers, and although not sheltered by any means, was rather wide-eyed with shock and revulsion at Jasper’s actions and interactions with others. However, I remained steadfastly glued to the story from beginning to end, at which point I handed it to my husband, who also read it in one day. With such developed writing chops already, Ben Brooks' literary future is glaringly bright, if he survives his research. I look forward to seeing what he comes up with next. I’d be interested in reading this story again, written from the stepdad’s point of view, after Brooks has gained the experience of  living through his 20s, 30s, and 40s.