Here Are the Young Men by Rob Doyle

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Here Are the Young Men by Rob Doyle

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Category: Literary Fiction
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Patricia Duffaud
Reviewed by Patricia Duffaud
Summary: An effective first novel about alienated teenagers in Dublin during the Celtic Tiger years.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 304 Date: September 2014
Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-1408863732

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Here are the Young Men surges forward, oozing edginess, from the very first sentence. Is that a bad thing? Probably not. It just means that readers may at times slip out of the story, feel themselves taking a step back and admiring the spare coolness of the novel before easing back into the narrative.

The characters, teenage boys who are awaiting the results of their Leaving Cert, feel alienated. They take drugs and walk the streets of Dublin during the Celtic Tiger boom years. The novel shines an interesting light on this recent period in Ireland’s history. In fact, viewing it from a teenage perspective is effective – everyone else seems gripped by the country’s newly found riches, living the moment and unable to see its negative aspects. The city’s wealth is obvious, flaunted in the trendy haircut of a young woman or in the impregnable gates encircling Bono’s mansion. In contrast, the young men’s dejection and aimlessness make them seem wiser than their countrymen.

Rez, in particular, reads philosophy books and questions and doubt constantly assault his mind, preventing him from enjoying the moment. Even his time with his girlfriend is compromised: he is keenly aware of how scripted sexual relationships are. He knows that every one of her breaths and moans has already been enacted onscreen, that she’s following the lead of some beautiful actress. As a result, he is unable to let go and enjoy the lovemaking. He sees other people as hammy actors as they take on the facial expressions of TV characters, for instance when they’re smoking a cigarette and gazing into the distance. What, then, is reality if everything is a copy of TV or film scenes? Doyle is great at pointing out this aspect of contemporary life.

Here are the Young Men captures perfectly the liminality of teenage years. The ennui, the use of drugs to stupefy and silence thoughts, the drifting, are rendered accurately. However, the influence of the internet and video games leads, in the second half, to developments that can seem unlikely.

For other novels set in Dublin, try Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha by Roddy Doyle or The Gathering by Anne Enright.

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