The year is 1965. The season is summer. The place is a little regional mining town called Corrigan. In Australia. This is where 13 year old Charlie Bucktin, our narrator, lives with his parents. Charlie is teenager who prefers spending his time reading and writing at home, hanging out with his best mate Jeffrey Lu playing cricket or talking about a million different things, performing well at school, while at the same time having a crush on Eliza Wishart from his year. He leads a pretty normal life with his studious father and frustrated mother, toeing the line all the time, whilst being bullied at school for being a nerd.
However, everything changes the night Jasper Jones knocks urgently on his window. Jasper is a social outcast in Corrigan. He is of mixed-race and tends to keep to himself. Jasper is the one every parent blames if their child gets into trouble since the immediate assumption is that their child was with Jasper Jones. An alcoholic father, a mother who died when he was aged 2. That’s all Jasper Jones has. And Charlie has never really known Jasper Jones. So when he sets out with Jasper in the middle of the night to his secret glade in the bush, Charlie is confronted by Jasper’s horrible discovery. Laura Wishart. The shire president’s older daughter. Dead. Beaten. Hanging from a tree.
Jasper Jones is not guilty. But he knows what this looks like. And he knows who will be blamed. And so, with Charlie’s help, he wants to find out who did this to Laura. Charlie, who has so far led a pretty quiet life, is now burdened with this secret and the urge to help Jasper at the same time. Can they find out who really killed Laura? Or will Jasper Jones once again be made the scapegoat?
The book is beautifully written from Charlie’s point of view. There are several laughs throughout the book. Jeffrey is a hilarious character and a great mate for Charlie. Their ribbing and teasing will definitely keep you smiling. Their hypotheticals are over the top. And I especially loved their discussion on the most courageous superhero. They are not just two 13 year olds having a laugh. They are two intelligent 13 year olds having a laugh. With substance to some of their conversations. Charlie’s awkawardness with Eliza will probably bring back memories of your own crushes and how you were around them when you were Charlie’s age.
But the book is not all laughs, of course. Issues such as injustice, racism, narrow-mindedness, and the crazy world of adults are all revealed through the eyes of a 13 year old in a very delicate and sensitive manner. Charlie questions why some of his school mates exclude Jeffrey Lu who is by far, the best spinner and a good batsman, from their cricket team just because of his ethnic background. He wonders why his father is spineless and his mother so bitter. And why people judge Jasper Jones harshly when in reality he hasn’t hurt anyone. Jasper is symbolic of the scapegoat in society. The one people love to hate. For what reason? No one knows.
The ending could have been a bit better in my opinion but I wasn’t too disappointed given that the rest of the book was outstanding. There were also some sections I wanted to know more about. A lot more about. Such as Laura Wishart’s history. But on the whole, I thoroughly enjoyed this book and would highly recommend it to others. I give it a rating of 5.
Jasper Jones, the novel by Craig Silvey, is about the musings of the world by a 13 year old boy. Who after seeing what he has, loses his innocence. And loses his faith in the goodness of human beings.
Go read it.
Until next time,
P.S. This post has been cross-posted on the author’s personal blog.