Wednesday, December 26, 2007


by John van de Ruit

Somewhere on the cover it says this book is "South Africa's Catcher in the Rye." I don't get the comparison. This book is so much better than Catcher. (Disclaimer: I think I waited too long to read CitR; I was nearly 30 by the time I read it, and all I heard was a spoiled brat whining about his rich-kid problems.)

Spud's about a 13-going-on-14-year-old who goes to boarding school on scholarship. (Younger and poorer than Salinger's protagonist; also, this is the story of him actually going to school rather than the story of him getting expelled and/or running away.) This book is funny; I laughed out loud several times. (Still not getting that comparison.)

Since it's set at an all-boys boarding school, you get a bit of implied/suspected homosexual shenanigans (not really involving the main characters), as well as a bit of the homophobia standard among boys of a certain age (not so much as to be offensive or discomfiting).

The story takes place in 1990, the year Nelson Mandela was released from prison and the South African government began the process of repealing apartheid laws. These facts don't affect the plot terribly much, but you get a good sense of how political events were often on people's minds during this time. Without being preachy, it's simply taken for granted that apartheid is wrong and it's days are numbered.

Bottom line, I loved this book and I'm anxious to read the next installment. I may have to ILL it, though — which I can't even do until the new year. It's on the thicker side for a young-adult novel, but the diary format makes it a quick read. I'm not sure how to recommend this one; I almost think girls would like it more than boys would. Well, boys would like it, but they'd be embarassed about it at the same time. And actually, now that I think about it, there's a bunch of stuff that would totally gross out the young ladies.

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