|May Contain Nuts (The World of Norm) by Jonathan Meres|
|Category: Confident Readers|
|Reviewer: John Lloyd|
|Summary: The diary of a 'nobody understands me, life is so unfair!' twelve year old, with added post-recession relevance.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 304||Date: September 2011|
Nothing, but nothing, is Norm's fault. If he virtually sleepwalks into weeing in his parent's wardrobe it's because they've downsized to a new, smaller home. If his best friend crashes Norm's own bike, it's his brother's fault. If his parents have had it up to there with him it's up to them to really state their mind and not be obtuse. When everything happens - lies, deceit, unhappiness and dog poo on the carpet - it's the world's fault for being so unfair.
In other worse, Norm is a typical nearly-thirteen-year-old lad. You certainly can't imagine him becoming a political beast like Adrian Mole, or a hormonal teen even - at the moment he hates the girl next door. He only really loves cycling - and moaning at the world's bias against him.
So expertly do we see that moaning from Norm's point of view that it's easy to forget this is a third-person narrative. You're with him all the way, feeling all of the emotions, seeing all his ineptitude and indignity. The target audience might well not be reading this but looking in a mirror.
The benefit of this is to distance it from books such as the Wimpy Kid books, although there are several differences, not just in narrator. This is British and while still managing to be universal, definitely feels English. (Do Americans say 'flipping' as a swear word so often? I think not.) The illustrations are uncaptioned small pictures, or animated fonts to enliven the dialogue even further. They don't capture beats away from the story, as the Simpsons-style inserts of Wimpy Kid, they just flash quite literally the gist of the story. I loved the broccoli being airmailed to Africa's starving, as per the parent's regular impetus to eat one's greens.
On the whole it's not quite as funny as it thinks it is - to me at my age, at least. It's a little cheap in borrowing Norm's grammar at times when more decent English could be used. For a style that utilizes italics to stress so much so often (nearly once a page) it's unfortunate the font shows that emphasis so poorly. But it is a very good, and ever-welcome first title in this series. It's self-contained, it's suitably knowing, and is on the whole witty enough to make this a series to watch.
I must thank the publishers for my review copy.
The latest Wimpy Kid novel to cross our paths here at the Bookbag has been The Ugly Truth.
You can read more book reviews or buy May Contain Nuts (The World of Norm) by Jonathan Meres at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy May Contain Nuts (The World of Norm) by Jonathan Meres at Amazon.com.
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