Grow Up by Ben Brooks

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Grow Up by Ben Brooks

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Category: Teens
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Jill Murphy
Reviewed by Jill Murphy
Summary: Very funny. Very funny. Very funny. This story of teen life in 21st century Britain will make parents eyes water. There's little in the way of narrative progression, but it's worth it for the belly laughs.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 180 Date: July 2011
Publisher: Canongate
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 0857861875

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Jasper is seventeen. He spends his time pretending to revise for his AS levels, fantasising about sex with Georgia Treely, hanging out with self-harming best friend Tenaya watching cheesy TV shows, and taking ketamine and mephedrone with his friends. When he's at a loose end, he goes to sex chatrooms in a quest to see how far he can get without going private (paying). He's also convinced that his step-father, Keith, is a homicidal maniac whose next victim is likely to be Jasper's mother...

... and this is a snapshot of his life. I say snapshot, as there's little in the way of narrative progression in Grow Up - a great deal happens but nothing much happens, if you see what I mean. There's a sweet little bit of semi-fourth wall breaking at the end that serves as a denouement but I shan't spoil it for you by giving it away.

In essence, the book is a series of set pieces, a la Inbetweeners or Skins, to give some humorous insight into the lives of twenty-first century British adolescents. It's crude, rude and funny, and has the energetic combination of hyperbole and honesty that I see from the two male adolescents living in my home almost every day. It must be said that my personal pet adolescents don't have anything like the comic timing Ben Brooks has, though.

I'll be honest: I love this kind of book. I find adolescents funny so I like reading about their misadventures, and my sense of humour is not sophisticated so I laugh at the same jokes. So I found Grow Up hilarious. Eye-wateringly so. Other parents may find it eye-watering for entirely different reasons as it depicts unsafe sex, misogyny, drug-taking and just about every no-no they could possibly imagine.

And you do really have to read it for fun - while Jasper is endearing in an almost aspie kind of way, the Keith-as-axe-murder business is just plain silly and the plot doesn't really go anywhere. There isn't anything more to it than this is what it is like to be us. But it's done with great vitality and energy and with a good heart. And there are plenty of belly laughs along the way.

(PS: Ben Brooks is nineteen. He wrote Grow Up at seventeen. I realise this is worth mentioning. But making a big point of it would be such a no-no with the pet adolescents in these 'ere parts I'm going with a footnote in order to avoid filial censure. Over and out).

My thanks to the good people at Canongate for sending the book. We also have a review of The Impossible Boy by Ben Brooks.

Apples by Richard Milward treads a very similar path but takes a more artsy approach. Oliver, in Submarine by Joe Dunthorne, reminded me very much of Jasper. And My Side Of The Story by Will Davis adds coming out as gay into the mix with even more eye-watering moments.

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Buy Grow Up by Ben Brooks at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Grow Up by Ben Brooks at Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
Buy Grow Up by Ben Brooks at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Grow Up by Ben Brooks at


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