Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Kathy Reviews: Hoodie by Brendon Lancaster

ISBN #: 978-1449027629
Page Count: 336
Copyright: December 29, 2009
Publisher: AuthorHouse

Book Summary
(Taken from Goodreads)

From the moment Ben Chapman ('Hoodie' to the other Shady Boys) crashes out of school, determined never to return and, incidentally, seeking his revenge on the school's drug dealer by stealing and concealing his stash in his trousers on the way out, you know that this is a boy to whom caution and reticence are alien concepts. Outwardly, he maintains that all he wants is a job, his own money and to follow his heart towards the girl of his dreams, Isabelle. But, underneath that concealing hoodie, Ben has a rich inner life, fed by dope, wine and the belief that he is someone special.

During his 'summer of love,' we follow his attempts to engage with the real world with frustration and compassion. His adventures cause him to question today's competitive, consumer-based values, eventually challenging his perception of reality and prompting him to reflect upon who and what his purpose in life is before finding himself faced with the definitive test of resolve and bravery.

Hoodie's blend of up-to-date realism, dream-like escapism, fast-paced, hard-hitting action, wistful musings, humour and tragedy, all while the story navigates its way on a magical mystery tour of Ben's mind, ensures an enjoyable read. It provides the perfect antidote to alarmist Daily Mail reporting of youth issues, exploring the problems facing modern day Britain from the perspective of a disempowered, disaffected teenager.

On a deeper level, there is a moral/spiritual sub-text, fed by Ben's belief that he has a secret weapon; the simian lines (fused head and heart lines) on the palms of his hands. These are extremely rare and noted as being a genetic abnormality shared by drug addicts, mass murderers, scientific researchers and religious fanatics (and, by sheer coincidence, Tony Blair). Could these lines hold the key to his future?

Kathy's Review:

I had a hard time relating to the main character of this book, Ben, aka Hoodie. A teenaged boy, drub abuser, hanging with a rough crowd. The book opens with him stealing drugs from the school's biggest dealer and returning to his secret hangout spot with his buddies. I should also mention that the story takes place in England and there are a lot of slang terms that were unfamiliar to me. It's unclear - are we supposed to think Hoodie is cool? Are we supposed to see these kids as the cool kids or the losers?

Then Ben has his palm read by a homeless man, who tells him he is special and he can do anything. Right after, he has a vision/hallucination about a tiger, and I thought maybe the story was going in a new direction. However, Hoodie continues to socialize with his loser friends, even though he sees that he could be doing so much more.

I struggled to get through this story. Hoodie's observations as he walked through crowds of people didn't strike me as particularly profound, and even though I saw that this character was trying to get on the right path, I didn't have any connection to him or to his friends.

Then there's a series of huge WTFs at the end - plot twists I didn't see coming although I had a feeling things would take an ugly turn. Is there redemption for Ben? And do I even care at this point? I think the last 1/3 of the story is just a carnival ride that the reader is unwittingly put on.

I'm not sure who the appropriate audience is for this book. Maybe younger males who might be on a bad path and can see some of themselves in Ben? With the drug use and one particular graphic sex scene, this book will not appeal to a wide crowd.

I don't have anything negative to say about how the story was written, this just wasn't for me. However, it might make a young person think about the consequences of drugs, violence and hanging with the wrong crowd.

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