Sometimes it is hardest of all to talk or write about a book I love. It is usually easier for me to point out things I don't like about a book but it can be difficult to explain what's great about it with any specificity. Maybe it is because all the parts work so well together it is hard to single out individual parts that make it so good. This is a long way of saying that I absolutely loved Jasper Jones by Craig Silvey. I loved the writing. I loved the characters. I loved it all.
The story is set in a small Australian town in the mid to late 1960s. Jasper Jones of the title is a 14-year-old half-Aboriginal/half-White, town scapegoat for anything that goes wrong in the town. If a kid gets in trouble his or her parents ask, were you with Jasper Jones? If something is missing, Jasper is assumed to be the thief. He is also the coolest kid in town and when he knocks on Charlie Bucktin's window in the middle of the night and ask for help, Charlie can't help but be flattered and intrigued. He is also more than a little terrified. Still Charlie crawls out his bedroom window and follows Jasper into the woods where Jasper shows him the gruesome discovery he had made.
Jasper Jones falls into the category of coming-of-age story. When I finished this the image of a caterpillar in a cocoon came to mind. Not because of the pretty butterfly that comes out in the end, but because of the insect goes in as one thing, transforms, and then has to fight its way out of the cocoon. At the beginning of this novel Charlie lives in his head and his books and is mostly oblivious to the problems of his town. By the end he is confronted with several adult problems: his parents' unhappy marriage, police brutality, racism, and generally adults doing bad things. It isn't a fun transformation. At several points Charlie wishes he could rewind the clock and forget all the secrets he has had to absorb. But it isn't all bad. Charlie also takes his first tentative steps at love.
Jasper is my favorite character in the book. Jasper because he refuses to believe all the bad things other people try to tell him he is. For all the crap life has dealt him he's still a good kid trying to do the right thing and he has a plan to get out of the small minded town where he was born.
I just finished this book and already I want to re-read it.