English newcomer Trigell offers a chilling, heavily moralistic tale tracing the hopes pinned on a juvenile ex-con to make good.
Boy A is the legal moniker given to a teenager who was tried, along with another boy labeled Boy B, for the sensational murder of a young girl in his hometown of Luton, England, then given the chance for a new identity after ten years in prison. Boy A, now a young man who chooses the name of Jack Burridge, tries out his secret new identity with the help of a benevolent probation officer, Uncle Terry, who has found Jack a place to stay and a job in a new town. Years of trying to fit into the brutal hierarchy of prisons at Brentwood and Feltham have alienated Jack to the real world, and he eases into his job as a driver’s map-reader, befriending his colleagues, who continually tempt him into trouble, drink and drugs, while he begins a relationship with a fast lady at the job who proves his undoing. Jack is a very likable character, nicknamed Bruiser (after a bar brawl), and Trigell follows him by going back in time, using an alphabeticized table of contents (“A Is for Apple,” “B Is for Boy”), to the boy’s youth, being bullied by other boys, dropping out of school and befriending the ruffian Boy B, the events leading up to the murder of the pretty young Angela Milton. Trigell’s mission is to elicit sympathy for Jack, who seems too bewildered and naïve to be guilty, and who never feels secure, knowing that he can never fit in. Meanwhile, the news of Boy A’s reentry into the world emerges in the papers, and Jack fears being ceaselessly pursued by a society bent on retribution rather than rehabilitation. Trigell wisely eschews the usual kind of unruly vernacular here in favor of an articulate, paternalistic narrator who truly wishes Jack well.
A grim narrative, but hard to put down.