Jasper Jones by Craig Silvey
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Set in Australia during the Vietnam War, this story of three relatively lost boys, and a lost girl, isn't quite like anything I've read before, although I've read (and seen) bits elsewhere.
Laura Wishart's body is found hanging from a tree - whodunnit? and why? Jasper Jones, a "half-caste" outcast knows he'll be blamed, so he asks Charlie Bucktin to help him both hide her body and figure out who did it. What's unclear is why Charlie, as he and Jasper are not friends.
Charlie is friends, however, with Jeffrey Lu, a Vietnamese boy who is a brilliant cricket player but never gets the chance to play because of his race. Charlie and Jeffrey have interesting conversations filled with hypothetical situations (would you rather wear the same underwear every day of your life or bite the head off a frog once a week?) that occasionally get boring. The superhero discussion, though, is worth reading and re-reading.
Charlie is also interested in Eliza, Laura's sister. It becomes clear that Eliza is interested right back... and that she knows something about Laura's vanishing.
Slowly, the mystery unravels, as does the town - the tension surrounding Laura's disappearance and the Vietnam War touch of tensions. Marriages implode, friendships are tested, and of course unexpected truths are revealed.
What gives me pause about this book is the constant teasing Charlie and Jeffrey about being a pansy or queer, etc. while real is simply contrary to anything we teach our students about being accepting and not using hurtful language.
ARC provided by publisher.
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