Although the titular question may imply a degree of mystery, Doyle's (Georgie) low-energy novel offers neither puzzles nor suspense. Jesse Flood, the 14-year-old narrator, grows up in aptly named Greywater, a small drab town in Northern Ireland, where he feels lonely and alienated ("You pass Miss boring Green and Mrs even more boring Fleming, boring the socks off each other on the corner, rabbiting on about last night's blockbuster episode of EastEnders or whinging on about all their little aches and pains"). Unfortunately, the author's attempts to set a distinctive or personal mark on this familiar terrain fall short. Jesse tells himself (and readers) stories cobbled together from Irish folktales, mulls over his parents' troubled marriage (his mother leaves midway through the novel), recalls embarrassing moments from childhood, and even faces peril in a sudden blizzard. An older friend turns out to be dealing drugs, and an ex-friend uses drugs and winds up dead. Even with so many plot elements, the stakes remain low. Lackluster pacing and broad-brush storytelling create a numbing distance, and Jesse's boredom with Greywater may well be passed along to readers. Ages 12-up. (Sept.)
Jesse Flood is a fourteen-year-old boy who is desperately trying to figure things out. But Jesse, like many awkward teenagers, is not very good at living in the everyday world. Awkward around girls, terrible at sports, and clumsy to the touch, Jesse struggles daily to "fit in" with the teenagers who inhabit the sleepy seaside town of Greywater, in Northern Ireland. Embarrassed and confused, young Jesse tries to cope with a crowd that considers themselves more hip and with-it than this average, angst-ridden teenager. As he mulls through his loneliness, Jesse tells himself (and readers) stories pieced together from Irish folktales, his parents' troubled marriage, embarrassing moments from his awkward childhood, and his confused and troubling friends. Some of those friends turn out to be drug dealers, and one, unfortunately, loses his life in one last sale. Told with humor and poignancy, this journalistic novel tells the tale of a teenager who is growing up across the ocean, yet whose life resembles a world that many teenagers, sadly, know all too well. 2002, Bloomsbury Children's Books, 173 pp.,
Opening with an intense third-person description of a harrowing self-imposed dare in a train tunnel, this recent book from the UK is sure to keep readers turning the pages. Jesse Flood lives in Northern Ireland, but his teenage emotions, fears and traumas are universal. Trying to find himself while escaping any way he can from the seemingly never-ending battles between his parents, Jesse describes himself in varying ways throughout his story, with a common theme of being different. In first-person narrative through most of the book, readers see into Jesse's life at different significant ages. He tells us about the girl he always loved; the girl he never loved; the bully who mysteriously goes missing; and what life is like with a drunken father after his mother leaves. Told with humor and self-reflection, Doyle offers a story that is so well crafted readers will laugh both at Jesse (as he laughs at himself) and with him. Perhaps the most spectacular parts of the book are the stories Jesse tells: not just the stories of some of his most embarrassing and shameful experiences, but also the stories that are reminiscent of fairy tales. Jesse is an avid reader and uses books to escape to worlds and realities away from his own. In turn, he is a wonderful storyteller. As readers discover just who Jesse Flood is, they will surely see glimpses of themselves and their lives. Give this book to your reluctant readers and recommend it to teachers looking for books written in creative formats. KLIATT Codes: JSRecommended for junior and senior high school students. 2002, Bloomsbury, 173p., Ages 12 to 18.
Gr 5-8-Fourteen-year-old Jesse Flood explores his life and thoughts in brief chapters of nearly stand-alone vignettes. The metaphor of adolescence as a tunnel from which one enters as a child and emerges as an adult runs throughout the book, beginning in the exciting opening in which Jesse enters a long train tunnel and plasters himself against the wall as a train races by, thus challenging death and staving off personal painful emotions. "And you're thinking maybe this wasn't such a good idea after all. You're thinking maybe there are better ways to get the constant sound of parental argument out of your head. Slightly more clever ways to get yourself a cheap thrill, to break the unremitting tedium of small town life." Indeed, Jesse himself seems almost a metaphor for the common adolescent experience. He adores his mother and is devastated when she chooses to leave him and his father. He wonders if she were not loved or respected enough in their home in a small Irish community. Jesse's voice comes through with poignant tellings of embarrassing situations and with a wonderful sense of humor, as well as with an honest exploration of painful emotions.-Crystal Faris, Nassau Library System, Uniondale, NY Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
"Sometimes I'd love to fit in, see. Sometimes there's nothing I'd like more than just to be the same as everyone else. It'd make life so much easier." Jesse Flood is really not much different from most 14-year-olds: simultaneously struggling with a family that's coming apart at the seams, a burgeoning interest in the opposite sex and the certain knowledge that none of them will ever be interested in him, and the need to forge a personality that can survive all this, he nevertheless emerges as a distinct, wryly self-aware voice. From the story's riveting opening in a train tunnel as he seeks to shake himself from an adolescence-induced funk to its close, Jesse's narration takes the reader back and forth through time as he tries to discover a meaning to life here, "at the arse end of the Universe." Of course, just about every teen feels that she lives at the arse end of the Universe, but in Jesse's case it's pretty much accurate: Doyle (Cow, p. 804, etc.) effectively recreates the quietly desperate atmosphere of Greywater, a tired, bypassed seaside town in Northern Ireland. Despite the potentially volatile setting, the Troubles make no appearance, leaving the text free to focus on Jesse's own personal troubles. The relentless focus on his adolescent angst is relieved both by hilarity (such as when a rather forward girl gets tired of waiting for Jesse to make a move and jumps him, resulting in a particularly evocative description of his first French kiss) and crushing poignancy occasioned by the drug-related death of a classmate. There isn't much new in this tale, but its delivery and the originality of Jesse's voice will resonate with readers, who may feel after reading Jesse's story thatmaybe life is manageable after all. (Fiction. 12-15)