Jasper Jones by Craig Silvey

‘Jasper Jones has come to my window.’

In the Australian summer of 1965, Charlie Bucktin is aged thirteen.  He is trying to sleep one hot summer night when there’s a knock on the window of his sleep-out.  His visitor is Jasper Jones, viewed by many as an outcast, and he wants Charlie’s help.

 Charlie finds Jasper both intriguing and dangerous.  If there is any trouble in the regional town of Corrigan, most will blame Jasper.  He’s a rebel, a mixed-race boy, who spends most of his time on his own.  Charlie follows Jasper, past the house of Mad Jack Lionel, and into Jasper’s secret place.  And there he becomes involved in a horrible mystery.  One that both Jasper and Charlie hide and try to solve. This is the beginning of Charlie’s loss of innocence.

Charlie has a good friend, Jeffrey Lu, a cricket fanatic.  Jeffrey is quick-witted, and while it should not matter that he is Vietnamese, in parts of 1965 Australia it does.  Jeffrey is ostracized, his parents treated badly.  Jeffrey will find his own triumph.

And Charlie is caught in trying to understand conflict between his parents, in discovering his first love, and trying to help Jasper find the answer to the horrible mystery he uncovered.

I’ve had a copy of this book for a while and read it recently after watching the movie made of it.

I have mixed feelings.  I think it is an accomplished novel: it explores several important issues and is set in a 1965 Australia that some of us will recognise.  I am glad I am not thirteen anymore.  Even without some of the challenges Charlie must face, it can be tough moving beyond childhood.

And yet, I was uncomfortable with some elements.  But that’s me, trying to impose adult lived values on a fictional teenage journey.

Jennifer Cameron-Smith