Author: Brendan Spratt
Genre: m/m fiction & coming of age
Print length: 262 pages
Publication date: February 17, 2013
Rating: Four Stars
Blurb: At 22, Jason L’Estrange should have the world at his feet.
Instead, he wakes on a dismal hospital ward to discover he’s a broken foot and a multitude of other injuries.
Learning he plunged down the stairs of Dublin’s seediest nightclub, Jason has no recollection if he fell or was pushed and the hospital psychiatrist is questioning if he may have had any reason to jump?
Accepting his life has spiralled out of control, Jason recalls the devastating climax of the feud between his two warring best friends Lizzie and Ryan. To add to his woes, he’s blown his final chance of a reconciliation with Alex, the only man who ever mattered, his alcoholic single mother has let him down again and Celestine, the girl who once gave him hope before breaking his heart has crashed back into his world with the missing pieces to the puzzle of Jason’s life.
Jason, Ryan, Celestine and Lizzie’s lives collide on a night out in Dublin when secrets thought long buried return and threaten to destroy what’s left of their friendships. When Celestine reveals the true reasons she was forced to end their friendship, Jason believes he has finally uncovered the truth to a mystery that has haunted him since childhood; the identity of his father.
Lonely but filled with hope, Jason wants to take you on his journey. The invisible boy who sits in the corner of every class, Jason dreams of a future where he doesn’t have to fight to survive. Struggling with a past littered with unanswered questions and fighting to make his desired destiny a reality, Jason reflects on how the desolate teen that fought to prove he had potential has ended up in a dire situation.
Brendan Spratt tells a story that is both fascinating and eerily familiar. The odds are against Jason from the very beginning. He’s poor, he has no father and his mother is an alcoholic. He’s bullied for being different. Despite his few triumphs and a healthy sprinkling of humor, we all know where the story is going because eventually, it will bring him to the hospital. What is so poignant about the events leading up to this is the inevitability of each step that is taken. The lengths to which any human being will go to gain acceptance, to retain friends, to not be alone in the world. It’s tempting to blame Jason’s mother, his friends, and a million other factors, but the author cleverly steers us away from the black and white answers. In the end, the blame is irrelevant anyway.
I can honestly say that I enjoyed this, even when the subject struck a little too close to home. Jason’s life will make you laugh and cry at the same time. The plot is captivating and well laid out, the supporting characters are excellent (even though you might want to smack some of them) and the ending is worth all the trouble leading up to it. I would not be in the least surprised if this eventually resulted in a movie.
Now, there are a couple of things that prevented this from being a five star book.
There was some decidedly odd sentence formation going on. It was a small problem because it didn’t hinder the story, but it took me a while to used to it.
The bigger problem was the structure. As much as it frustrates some readers to jump back and forth between the past and present, I’ve always found the complexity of such writing system to be fascinating. The flashback narrative can be powerful when done right, and in this novel, it’s critical to the way the story develops. Only in the last quarter of the book does this structure start to crumble. The jumps are more frequent and unexpected, making it easy for a reader to lose his place in the story. There was a couple of times at the end of the book that I had the ‘Where are we now?’ moment, having to actually pause in between the paragraphs to figure it out. It only took me a few seconds to orient myself, but the result was an interruption in the flow of the narrative just when it was reaching its climax.
Overall, a very good debut novel. I’m curious to find out what else this author has in store.