My Side Of The Story by Will Davis
|My Side Of The Story by Will Davis|
|Reviewer: Jill Murphy|
|Summary: A ballsy debut novel in every sense of the word. Bookbag laughed until it cried, then cried until all adolescents within a five mile radius barfed simultaneously. Highly recommended to all but the timorous beasties who don't like swearing, drugs, sex and all those other teen fascinations.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 256||Date: March 2007|
|Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC|
My name is Jarold, but everyone calls me Jaz, which is a damn site cooler, I think you'll agree. I'm sixteen (just) and I have two remarkably undivorced parents along with a sister and a grandmother and we all live in the same house together just like a TV show. I've just started my A Levels too, which me and Al are planning to fail, which is our way of saying Fuck You to the British educational standard.
As you can see, Jaz is a typical adolescent! What Jaz doesn't mention while introducing himself though, is that he is gay. Out to himself and his best friend Al (Alice), Jaz is about to find himself outed to his parents by his holier than thou sister, Theresa. Jaz's parents don't react too well to the news, Jaz doesn't react too well to his parents not reacting too well and it all turns into a world-record domino topple as Jaz rebels and his parents and teachers overreact.
My Side Of The Story has some of the funniest writing I've read in a long, long time. I spent the first fifty pages laughing so hard that I had to either put the book down or follow members of my family around, reading out choice excerpts but ruining the timing of all the jokes by excess sniggering. If I let you see Jaz's description of Fabian the Freak, a boy at his school, you'll see what I mean:
Fabian the Freak is like this Nazi-goth-punk amalgam who has this reputation for being all extreme and dangerous. Most of it comes from this one time he allegedly tried to attack Mrs Bolsh in art class with a pair of scissors and got expelled for it. Then it turned out he had behavioural problems, which must be like another way of saying it's OK to attack an old woman with a pair of scissors after all, because the school let him come right back... Nowadays he has no friends at all, and usually hangs out round the toilets showing off biro tatts of swastikas to impressionable molestables from junior school.
If you don't think that's funny, you might as well be Jaz's mother. And that's not a good thing. While the level of wit is maintained throughout the novel, though, the laughs do dry up as Jaz's situation gets worse and worse and his relationships with his parents, sister and teachers disintegrate into a morass of recrimination and bad behaviour from all sides. The thread of dark humour runs throughout, but mostly as a counterpoint to what is actually a tremendously touching coming of age story in which the coming of age is even more problematic than most.
My Side Of The Story is written as a first person narrative, so teenagers are bound to identify with Jaz, even when he's getting it badly wrong. It's all very colloquial, and judging by the number of times my children say "I'm like...", "it's like...", "I'm the definition of...", Will Davis has got the teen lingo pretty much down pat. Jaz sounds like a teenager, not like an adult pretending to be one.
Nervous parents should know that My Side Of The Story contains all the no-nos. There is swearing, there is drug-taking, there is violence, there is underage drinking and let's not forget the graphic anal sex scene, just in case the rest of the list hadn't already sent you scurrying for cover. Censorious adults can just forget it and consign My Side Of The Story to the banned list, along with the various Melvyn Burgess and Jonathan Coe books already there. I think, however, this is a mistake. It's not as though sex, drugs and rock and roll aren't topics of conversation for adolescents. And when Jaz does take his rebellions too far and gets out of his depth, Davis paints a pretty accurate picture of all the things that can go wrong - out of his head on ecstasy, all Jaz wants to do is go home and hug his parents. When he loses his virginity, it isn't at all the liberating experience he expects it to be. It's just painful.
I really, really liked My Side Of The Story. It's witty, contemporary, honest and, at times, quite heartbreaking, even if all does end reasonably happily. I hope it does well.
Thanks to the publisher, Bloomsbury, for sending the book.
If you like the sound of My Side Of The Story, you might also enjoy Finding Violet Park by Jenny Valentine.
You can also meet Jaz at MySpace.
You can read more book reviews or buy My Side Of The Story by Will Davis at Amazon.co.uk
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I have a second hand experience (!!) of today's British teenagers only, and perhaps it's a negatively self-selected section; but I have to say that what you quoted did not sound like a typical adolescent at all. At all. He sounded as an intellignet, articulate, slightly cynical one and painfully cool one. Like we used to be :-)
I have read it now. It's like, absolutely fucking brilliant. And the anal sex wasn't that graphic after all. I just wonder if making him gay doesn't kind of limit the potential readership? But it probably wouldn't work otherwise. The heady mixture of self-centered cruelty and intelligent comment is just excellent.
Aha. You see what I mean now about the lingo, then? I think, actually, it was intended to address the lack of gay teen fiction. There really isn't much of it. I can't imagine why, but I think even if it does reduce its appeal, it's still a good focus. I dunno about graphic. That phrase "pumps of pain" made me want to laugh at and cry for the poor boy all at the same time! I don't suppose it's particularly graphic if you're considering a sixth form readership the same age as the lead character, but it is if you're thinking that the book is going to be read by kids aged twelve and up like Conor, then it is, from a parental point of view. Personally, I can't see any problem with truthful descriptions of sex at all - and it FELT truthful, didn't it? - but I know a lot of parents who'd want to at least know if their kids were reading it. Despite the very urban, British style, the book I think has something in common with the continental canon about relationships between young adults and experienced adults being a kind of rite of passage. Heresy in this country, which seems to equate it with toddler paedophilia.