Jasper Jones tells the story of Charlie Bucktin and the insular mining town of Corrigin in the 1960s. Charlie and his friend Jeffery Lu are outsiders, but not to the same extent as Jasper Jones, a 'mixed race' boy who seems to be the town scapegoat for every misdemeanour. When Jasper knocks on Charlie's louvered windows one night, nothing will be the same for either of them again.
Craig Silvey's coming of age story makes many intertextual references that younger readers might not understand. The love interest, Eliza Wishart is obsessed with Breakfast At Tiffany's, Charlie voraciously consumes Twain, and Harper Lee's classic To Kill A Mockingbird makes many appearances throughout the text. Sometimes this is a bit forced to be honest.
I was reading Jasper Jones with teaching in mind, and it would make an excellent bridge between Mockingbird and Atonement. I feel it is important for WA students to read a text published by a West Australian, set in their home state. We tried Sorry by Gail Jones for this reason, to an underwhelming response. JJ has a much more engaging plot and more accessible themes. Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps... I do have a few content and language concerns.
Jeffery Lu is the standout character in this text. He is a witty, quirky boy who will make you laugh out loud. (Sometimes I wondered if his voice would ring true with adolescent readers; there is an early conversation about superheroes that I found far too 'adult'.) In any case, he is memorable for his questions, and the cricket game is one of the best underdog performances I've read for a long time.
Jeffery Lu's best question: would you rather wear a hat made of spiders, or have penises for fingers?
Well, what would you prefer? ( And yes the spiders are venomous.)
Happy reading :)