Tag Archives: Coming of Age

Book Reviews
April 22, 2012 posted by Kiona

Grow Up — Ben Brooks

DOING DRUGS, DOING SEX, DOING LIFE. Who says youth is wasted on the young? Jasper wants to get on in the world, but life is distracting. He’s got his A-levels to contend with, his mother pushing him to overachieve, weekly visits to his psychologist, come-downs, YouTube suicides and pregnant one-night-stands. And then there’s his step-dad – the murderer. Hilarious and heartbreaking by turns, GROW UP is the ultimate twenty-first-century coming of age novel. Funny, smart and twisted, it is the story of one young man transformed and paints an unashamed and true portrait of the pills and thrills and bellyaches of growing up today.

Jasper spends his days partying with friends, doing drugs, and trying to find evidence incriminating his step-dad as a murderer. He wants to seduce Georgia Treeley, stop one of his best friend’s from hurting herself, and ace his A-levels, as that’s what everyone seems to expect of him.

First thing’s first, this novel is extremely explicit and definitely intended for an older/more mature audience. The author thoroughly details extensive recreational drug use as well as numerous instances of unprotected sex, while also touching upon the topics of teenage suicide, ruminations on rape, self-harm, and the inner workings of the male teenage mind. That being said, Grow Up is an entertaining new coming-of-age story with a quirky, painfully honest protagonist who offers an engaging  and eye-opening view of the world around him. This book will appeal to fans of the UK television show “Skins” and C.W. Paine’s Youth in Revolt.

The major appeal of this Grow Up, for me, is it’s honesty. Ben Brooks depicts the teen male mind in all it’s disgusting glory and doesn’t shy away from telling it like it is. In addition to Ben Brooks bluntly providing a glimpse into the male psyche, his protagonist, Jasper, is also extremely honest with himself. He admits his own flaws and acknowledges that he plans to change some things about himself, but for now, he’s content to be who he is. Jasper may be far from perfect, but he’s a teenager and he acts and thinks like one. Yes, his more ridiculous escapades are laugh-out-loud funny, but his unabashed sweetness and caring disposition endear him to us so that we actually care about these adventures and where they will take him.

There is no major plot-line, which leaves me feeling a little unfulfilled by the book’s end, but I understand that the purpose of the book is to examine Jasper’s coming-of-age. There are minor plot points, such as the mystery of whether or not Jasper’s step-dad actually is a murderer, Jasper’s relationship with his psychologist, and the unfortunate plight of on of his best friends, Tenaya. I would feel more satisfied at the end if Jasper had matured a little more, or “came-of-age.” He feels like a static character to me, and while I love him, I expected more from him. By the end of the book, it seems like he still has the same dreams/goals/plans, but has gained a little insight. I’m not sure if I’m supposed to assume things get better for him or that he gets his act together. I’d like to assume these things, as I want the best for him, but nothing in the conclusion leads me to believe he’s changed all that much. He does learn a lot about himself though, which is rewarding.

Plot aside, Grow Up is masterfully written. Ben Brooks is clearly an authority on metaphors and characterization. Jasper’s voice is potent from the very first sentence so that he leaps off the page and forcefully drags you into the story. The near-poetic language elevates the uproarious humor from juvenile to powerful. This isn’t just a novel about kids having fun and doing drugs, but a complicated story with depth that will make you laugh as much as it makes you think.

Pages: 272
Publication Date: April 2012
Publisher: Penguin Books
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
Rating : ★★★★☆

Teaser Quote: “Sometimes, when I feel sad or ill, I play the old Avril Lavigne album and think about how happy I was in 2003, when kissing a girl who tasted of Panda Pops at a school disco was enough to make everything seem as though it couldn’t get any better.

Book Reviews
December 9, 2010 posted by Christina

Confessions of a Teenage Pond Hopper – Alyssa Grossbard

“For seventeen years, Charlotte Alexandra Williston has felt as if she’s a supporting character in the ongoing play that is her life. She’s been reading lines someone else wrote instead of saying what she really thinks, never stepping outside of the proverbial prim and proper box containing her well-bred life in Caulfield, Connecticut. But now, she’s determind to create her own story – one in which she’s the star. After graduating high school, she impulsively embarks on a jaunt across Europe with her best friend Molly. From London to Florence to Copenhagen and beyond, Charlotte explores cities and castles, befriends strangers, and shops ‘til she drops. She even meets the guy who just might be the one she’s been waiting for. And in the midst of her adventures, she finds time for reflection in some unlikely places, beginning a new journey that will take her further than any of the planes, trains, and black cabs waiting for her when she arrives…”

Last week I was introduced to a character named Charlotte in Nicole Richie’s Priceless, (and we know how well that went) so when I picked up Confessions of a Teenage Pond Hopper and found the main character was also named Charlotte I first  thought “…ah crap”.

Never fear! Charlotte Williston was luckily a much better character to follow than Charlotte Williams.

Just days away from graduating from high school, Charlotte takes off on an impulsive trip across the pond (an idiom referring the Atlantic Ocean that’s between the US and the UK) as a way of stepping out of her tightly laced life that she never really felt was her own. Charlotte is the kind of girl who has always taken the safe route – doing well in school, trying to please her parents, not getting involved in relationships, which has made her life turn out cold and bland. This trip is Charlotte’s rebellion against that life as well as chance to remove herself from it to find herself and what she really wants along the way.

In contrast to Charlotte is her best friend Molly who comes along on the trip with her. Molly is outgoing, lively and has an obsession with shopping (with a credit card limit that accommodates that obsession). Molly balances out Charlotte’s more inhibited nature and encourages her to step outside her shell. It would’ve been nice to see Molly interested in something other than constantly shopping, but she was a good character who obviously cared very much for her best friend and was a total asset to the trip.

The romance in the story between Charlotte and James is completely gorgeous but at times I found myself wistfully thinking “ah if only things like that really happen”. Though their relationship wasn’t completely unrealistic, there was a kind of sweetness and maturity that I felt could only be seen in a fictional book. But maybe I’m a cynic.

Now I’m in two minds about this next point. Either Grossbard has a very sophisticated vocabulary or was a bit too into her thesaurus while writing this book. I felt a bit like a simpleton, needing a dictionary to look up words like “acquiesced” and “nomenclature”, so at times the vocabulary was a bit distracting. On the one hand, I remember an interview with Gilmore Girls writer, Amy Sherman Paladino saying “your audience is only as smart as you let them be” and on the other I’ve heard that you don’t need sophisticated language to tell an amazing story. From the middle towards the end the vocabulary wasn’t really an issue, so it’s kind of a take it or leave it point.

Confessions of a Teenage Pond Hopper is a great coming of age story, and one that feels so completely relevant. I was excited to read this one since I’ve also just graduated (but from college, not high school) and am planning a trip to Europe next year as well. The places Charlotte and Molly travelled to and the experiences they had have completely inspired me. But even if that’s not your specific circumstance, the emotions Charlotte goes through as she examines her life up to that point will ring true with a lot of people, making it a really great read.

Pages: 193
Publication Date: September 2010
Rating: : ★★★★☆

Teaser Quote: “Thirty-six hours and counting and she was beginning to realize the overwhelming proportions of what she was about to do. A natural worrier, she never did anything without thinking it through. And now it was all about to change”.