YA Fiction for Boys: Part Five
Review of ‘Wise Young Fool’
I’d firstly like to thank Trish, for her great series this week. I don’t know anyone with a greater knowledge of Australian and international YA fiction. If you’ve just come to this review, you can read the other parts by clicking on the links below this post. Thank you lovely lady…hope you come back and visit Children’s Books Daily again soon (pretty please?!).
For my last blog post of the week (thank you Megan for letting me take over for all this time), I present to you Sean Beaudoin’s latest novel, Wise Young Fool. Of all the books I have told you about this is the funniest, and maybe the most intense. Beaudoin is so clever with language and structure, we are swept along into Ritchie’s complicated life simultaneously laughing, while wiping away an errant tear. (Actually I am pretty sure the sun was just shining way too brightly at that one point).
Ritchie’s story is similar to Alex’s in the way it’s structured. We have two timelines. One (indicated by chapter headings on a scrap of note paper) shows us Ritchie in a juvenile detention centre, about half way through a 90 day sentence. He is trying to keep his head down, trying to stay out of trouble and part of that appears to be the requirement of a daily journal writing process. Ritchie’s journal entries are alternatively irrelevant and totally irreverent, or, so open and honest to be almost too revealing of Ritchie’s sadness and anger. Readers are kept in the dark as to what he’s done to have been sent away, which ensures their ongoing interest.
The other timeline is the lead up to the incident. Here we meet Ritchie and his best friend, El Hella, as they attempt to ready themselves for a rock band competition, similar to a battle of the bands event. This part of the novel is lighter, with witty and clever language. It’s fun watching these two wanna-be punk rockers interact, debate various names for their band (actually a duo), argue over ‘artistic’ differences (do they really need a drummer?) and try not get into too many scuffles with people who want to hassle them. Just like Reality Boy, a lot of this is messy and complicated. Just like Josh, Ritchie is living with true guilt and pain, as (like Alex) he has lost a sibling.
What comparisons can I make with Man made boy? It’s wacky and crazy, reflected in the use of a sort of ‘meta’ framing. The publisher starts and ends the novel, with the idea that Ritchie is real and that all we have of him are these journal entries. She poses the questions: Who is Ritchie Sudden, and where has he disappeared? This device is often successful in pulling a narrative together, but for me, the story worked effectively and I would have been quite happy without it. But in terms of using it as a promotional campaign, it could go viral and really lift the profile of the book.
I just loved Wise Young Fool for its inclusion of excellent word puns and angry song lyrics. I loved Ritchie’s voice – his attempts to come across as cool and uncaring are totally at odds with his generous behaviour, his skill at hiding his pain and fear, and his ability to rise above the actions of bullies.
I believe all of these books would best suit boys around and above the age of 15. If you have great readers but they are boys who are only read fantasy or science fiction, challenge them to try one of these contemporary novels. Although the action isn’t shoot-em-up and car chases, the stories are still plot driven with the boys involved in tense stand offs, impulsive late night encounters and various other teenage behaviours with which readers can easily identify.
There! I am done for the week. Thank you for indulging me Megan, and letting him ramble on about my favourite type of YA novels – those that offer hopeful and positive messages to teenage boys. They can face up to their fears and in figuring out who they are, they don’t have to succumb to peer pressure, or stereotypes. In essence, there are lots of different ways to be young and male.
The cover and title links of this book takes you to the Australian based online bookstore Booktopia. If you live in the US or would prefer to use Amazon click here, Wise Young Fool. If you live in the UK or would prefer to use Book Depository click here.
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