WHO IS JESSE FLOOD? by Malachy Doyle


Age Range: 12 - 15
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“Sometimes I’d love to fit in, see. Sometimes there’s nothing I’d like more than just to be the same as everyone else. It’d make life so much easier.” Jesse Flood is really not much different from most 14-year-olds: simultaneously struggling with a family that’s coming apart at the seams, a burgeoning interest in the opposite sex and the certain knowledge that none of them will ever be interested in him, and the need to forge a personality that can survive all this, he nevertheless emerges as a distinct, wryly self-aware voice. From the story’s riveting opening in a train tunnel as he seeks to shake himself from an adolescence-induced funk to its close, Jesse’s narration takes the reader back and forth through time as he tries to discover a meaning to life here, “at the arse end of the Universe.” Of course, just about every teen feels that she lives at the arse end of the Universe, but in Jesse’s case it’s pretty much accurate: Doyle (Cow, p. 804, etc.) effectively recreates the quietly desperate atmosphere of Greywater, a tired, bypassed seaside town in Northern Ireland. Despite the potentially volatile setting, the Troubles make no appearance, leaving the text free to focus on Jesse’s own personal troubles. The relentless focus on his adolescent angst is relieved both by hilarity (such as when a rather forward girl gets tired of waiting for Jesse to make a move and jumps him, resulting in a particularly evocative description of his first French kiss) and crushing poignancy occasioned by the drug-related death of a classmate. There isn’t much new in this tale, but its delivery and the originality of Jesse’s voice will resonate with readers, who may feel after reading Jesse’s story that maybe life is manageable after all. (Fiction. 12-15)

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 2002
ISBN: 1-58234-776-X
Page count: 176pp
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1st, 2002


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