A kind of modern-day Peter Pan.
One Saturday afternoon I was at a friend's house and he was called out on emergency business. Feeling bored, I looked around for something to read and this was the only book on the shelf (belonged to his mum). I did not like the cover, nor the title. But I had nothing else to do so I read it and finished it in one sitting.
I was pleasantly surprised. It was like a modern-day story of Peter Pan, complete with drugs and the other things young people get up to. Plus the title - The Petting Zoo - was not the seedy concept I thought it was (given that the picture showed a scantily clad young woman in this version). It refers to the part of the zoo that keeps the baby animals and the animals that are OK to pet, such as rabbits. The title was apt and actually quite clever.
The main character has just turned twenty and realises that his irresponsible teenage days are drawing to a close. His fear of adulthood leaves him with only one choice - to take his own life. He has thought about this since he was eight years old. The book goes through his various attempts at suicide and the reaction and despair of his loving girlfriend.
Although it is a moody and tragic story it is also witty and original. It is thoughtful and demonstrates the intensity of a first love and is a kind of coming of age story. I read it all in one Saturday - a sign that it drew me in and kept me reading on. I'm glad that I did.
Published by Simon & Schuster on 1 Oct. 1979.
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