Rash

Gramps, who was born in 1990, once told me that when he was my age the only way to wind up in prison in the USSA (back when it had only one S) was to steal something, kill somebody, or use illegal drugs.

So this is – at least partly – a YA version of Twenty-Thirty. Sadly the world building drops off for a hurried teen version of Prison Break mixed with a sport (football) story.

Main character Bo (short for Bono), is the odd one out. In a super safe, barely criminal, society, he’s the one with half of the family in jail and a grandfather that keeps bringing up illegal things. Bo has an anger problem and that puts him into trouble: an one way trip a correctional facility.

Life there is brutal and monotonous, but of course he manages to become part of an elite team pretty soon. And this team does illegal things: play something called football, without any protection. This looks like the right place for some Life Lessons, but Pete Hautman seems to be to enthralled by explaining several football maneuvers.

The second half and ending seems to be a bit rushed, which really breaks the initial fun down. Not bad, not very good either.

Rash, Pete Hautman, Simon & Schuster 2006

Afrikaners

‘Wat neuk ons so met die Hollanders?’ vroeg columnist Max Du Preez zich ooit af in het dagblad Beeld.

Hebben blanken een plek in Zuid Afrika? Hebben Afrikaners een plek in Zuid-Afrika? Net zoals het niet zo makkelijk is om deze vraag te beantwoorden, is het ook niet simpel om dit boek te omschrijven. Fred de Vries schreef eerder over het onderwerp voor verschillende tijdschriften, en woonde ook in Zuid Afrika. Door middel van geschiedenis en heden, interviews en persoonlijke ervaringen probeert hij een beeld te scheppen van de regenboognatie die maar geen regenboog wil vormen. Als dat al een goed idee is.

Als liefhebber van Zuid Afrika waren er genoeg (geschiedkundige) feiten om mij toch nog mee te verrassen. Vooral het onderscheid tussen Afrikaner en Boer en Afrikaners pro en contra een (afgescheiden) blanke staat was nieuws voor mij. Zo vaak is Boer nog synoniem voor elke witte Zuid Afrikaan, en wordt hij dan weggezet als een extremist à la Eugene Terre’blanche.

Genoeg nieuwe informatie dus, en op de af en toe overdosis aan noten na, vlot geschreven. Enige nadeel is de aanwezigheid van (in deze druk) meerdere typfouten. Ik weet niet of dit met haast naar de drukkerij moest, maar het is storend.

Dit boek gaat niet alleen over Afrikaners, maar ook racisme, minderheid versus meerderheid en misplaatste superioriteitsgevoelens. Ondanks de smetjes is het zeker de leestijd waard.

Afrikaners: een volk op drift, Fred de Vries, Nijgh & Van Ditmar 2012

The Shadow Girls

It was one of the last days of the twentieth century.

Immigrants aren’t less human than those that have been living in one country or even city for the past hundred years. Somehow that’s still hard to remember. The reader, led by the hand of main character Jesper Humlin, is taught the tough way.

Jesper isn’t a character to be proud of. He’s a slightly successful poet who thinks the world’s against him and will only do something for his own gain. Meeting three (illegal) immigrants at first makes him think about what an amazing inspiration they’ll be, until he realizes that they’re human and have their own stories, not for him to take.

And like that he steps aside to give room to those stories, to show that sales numbers aren’t that important when you traveled through the entirety of Europe in hope of a better life. It’s brutal, but never sentimental. Because these girls deserve more than just sympathy and a pat on the head, they deserve their humanity.

The Shadow Girls, Henning Mankell, Harvill Secker 2012

The Opposite Bastard

My restart interview seemed to be going swimmingly.

Even though there is plenty of proof in the world that disabled people are people as well, it’s still easy to forget that they experience the same self-doubts, thoughts and emotions as the able ones. The Opposite Bastard gives a dry comical look behind the eyes of a young adult, paralyzed from the neck down.

It all evolves around a play at Oxford, Hamlet. The stereotypical theater kid wants Michael as his Hamlet. The other players, Michael’s caretaker ((ex-)actor), friend and his mother each have their own chapters to share their point of view on happenings. When a sensation-craved documentary maker discovers what’s going on, connections get tighter and smiles more grim.

The biggest point The Opposite Bastard drives home is that everyone is human, no matter what and that no-one can know what they’d do in a life-changing situation until they live through it. Michael isn’t always a lovable pet, his mother’s delusion and clinging to religion doesn’t make her a bad person, Anna isn’t an angel for the sole reason that she dares to be around him.

With a dry humor and accessible language this could well be put down as a summer read.

 The Opposite Bastard, Simon Packham, Macmillan New Writing 2008

two way street

I’m a traitor to my generation.

The feminist side of me cringed several times about the clichés on how men and women should act, the little super romantic teen inside me could only squeal with pleasure with every high school dream that came true. two way street is not up there with other recent YA I read, but definitely entertaining enough for a quick summer read.

Courtney is going on a road trip to her college. With her ex-boyfriend. Of course when all this was planned he wasn’t an ex, there was no MySpace girl he broke up with her for and she thought she had a happy life. Now it’s hurt feelings, trying hard not to show those feelings and all the annoying quirks you can only like in a loved one. Locked up in a car.

Of course things aren’t completely what they seem and is the ex-boyfriend not the bad guy. The ending is a bit abrupt, but the fuzzy feelings will probably linger.

two way street, Lauren Barnholdt, Simon Pulse 2007

Eleven Days

The United States Navy SEALs came out of the Teams that served in Vietnam; they in turn came out of the Navy Seabees, the Scouts and Raiders, and the Underwater Demolition Teams used during World War II.

‘What happens to those that are left behind?’ is regularly asked when military families are the subject. In case of Eleven Days, the question applies to both sides. It’s not only the mother getting left behind by her son and his father, it’s the son being left behind by her, his father, and the possibilities of ordinary life.

Sara and Jason aren’t a conventional mother and son and their relationship is similar. That doesn’t mean that when she gets the news of him being missed, she deals with it any differently than anyone missing a loved one. This mother just has a large safety net made by neighbors, military men and her son’s godfathers to catch her.

The novel tells not only Sara’s story, but also Jason’s. His need to become a part of the American army, his silent suffering because he never knew his father, the feelings of finally belonging somewhere when he finds his place in his team. Him ending up missing is almost a side plot, this is about war and peace, wrong and right, family you’re born with and family you create yourself.

It’s not a happy story, and it takes a bit of work to get through it, but if you want to ponder these subjects, I’d tell you to give this a chance.

Eleven Days, Lea Carpenter, Alfred A. Knopf 2013

Schroder

In dit verslag kun je lezen waar Meadow en ik sinds onze verdwijning zijn geweest.

Hoe vaak zal het gebeuren, een vader die uit wanhoop zijn kind ontvoert na een scheiding? Dat een man en een vrouw zulke vreemdelingen van elkaar worden dat ze niet meer met elkaar kunnen communiceren?

Schroder is het verslag van een vader die op een dag besluit niet genoeg te nemen met de tijd die hij met zijn dochter mag doorbrengen. In plaats van een net afscheid aan het einde van de dag, gaat hij er van door met zijn dochter, voor een ‘kleine vakantie’.

Natuurlijk gaan hier allerlei dingen aan vooraf, overgoten met een groeiende wanhoop. De hoofdpersoon schuwt het zelfbeklag niet, maar heeft ook (soms pijnlijke) momenten van inzicht waardoor het alleen maar duidelijker wordt wat voor een fouten hij heeft gemaakt.

Schroder laat zien dat het niet alleen de moeder is die emotioneel en irrationeel kan worden door een scheiding en het gemis van kinderen. Hoofdpersoon Eric is niet het meest aantrekkelijkste karakter, maar hij is wel een mens.

Schroder, Amity Gaige, Faber and Faber 2013