This is a coming of age story about two teenagers at at school as they transition into adults and university. It is set in modern day Ireland, in Dublin and the more rural and parochial parts. The irony is that that each aspire to become normal people and fit in with those around them without realising that in doing so, they are actually very normal. Some aspects of this book actually reminded me of myself and people I knew at that age.
The boy is tall, good looking athletic, popular and clever. The girl, by contrast, is odd and unpopular. He likes her quirkiness, but someone of his status wouldn't date a girl like that so they have a relationship that he denies exists. He dates a girl suitable for his social standing and calls her his 'girlfriend'. However, when they go to university the roles have reversed: now he is out of place as his is not from a wealthy family and she is. She is popular and he is the odd lonely one.
The story is told in both present and past tense, without the use of speech marks, which aids the blurring of communication and intention. This is one of the themes of the book. There is a lot of confusion both deliberate and subconscious. The story also touches on social class, depression, codependency and gender roles, but mostly it is an intense journey about acceptance and finding one's place in the world.
At times the characters are pitiful and tragic and at other times they are cold and disturbed. Then they are warm and caring. They are basically just normal people although they don't realise it. A powerful, complex and visceral tale that is simply brilliant.
Published by Faber & Faber on 28 August 2018.
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