Kirkus Reviews QR Code
GROW UP by Ben Brooks

GROW UP

By Ben Brooks

Pub Date: April 24th, 2012
ISBN: 978-0-14-312109-1
Publisher: Penguin

Hyper–self-aware young British writer writes novel about same. Add sex and drugs and stir.

One might not expect the fifth outing from indie author Brooks (born in 1992, in Gloucestershire, England) to be so eminently readable, but this U.K. bestseller proves to be the exception to the rule. Its protagonist, Jasper J. Wolf, imagines himself as a prettier Holden Caulfield, but the end game reveals that the self-reflective young writer is more along the lines of a John Hughes hero, albeit with volumes more narcotics. Jasper is in the midst of preparing for his A-level exams, leaving him loads of time to hang out with his mates, plot the downfall of his stepfather, stalk the extremely fit Georgia Treely and generally put his various organs where they don’t belong. There’s a timeless if caustic quality to Jasper’s minimalist rants: “Doing sex with a girl for over seven minutes is something to be proud of. Being British is not,” he laments. Whenever there aren’t girls to seduce or Ketamine to be snorted, he retreats to the company of lothario Jonah, rock god Ping, or his BFF Tenaya, the girl who is as likely to hit Jasper as comfort him. His adventures aren’t at all shocking, but there’s an unexpected humor even to the murkiest sequences. Jasper has sex with an unattractive girl at a party and is teased mercilessly for it, even as he worries about the girl’s possible pregnancy. The drug bits (of which there are many) are relatively unpretentious, even when it feels like its creator is playing at Irvine Welsh-level primitiveness. A surface read of this confessional invites comparisons to the transgressive teen drama Skins, but Brooks’ work (Fences, 2009, etc.) feels richer as it explores generational angst and the blue-black damage of adolescence.

An epistolary novel filled with black humor and fleeting tenderness.