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October 4, 2010 | by  | in Books | [ssba]

Luke and Jon by Robert Williams

The teenage narrative voice is a thing rarely done right. Most of the time, any book with a pubescent narrator tends to be filled with overly witty dialogue, or slang that’s too cheesy for even Shortland Street. Luckily for us, the characters in Robert Williams’ debut novel are sweet, awkward kids, marooned in a rural English town called Duerdale, where the main road is five shops long and a cry of “sheep-shagger” is never far away.

Luke Redridge is the fourteen year old protagonist, and he shoulders some heavy burdens. We find out that his bipolar mother recently died in a car crash, which may or may not have been a suicide. His toy-maker father spirals into alcoholism and, soon enough, the bills pile up and they’re evicted from their home. The only affordable place is a derelict hill-top house in a remote corner of the aforementioned Duerdale, so father and son,who are too grief-stricken to do anything but go through the motions, hunker down in misery and wait for the summer holidays to end. In comes Jon. Jon is also fourteen, has lost both his mum and dad, and lives with his comatose grandparents in filth, malnourishment, and constant fear of social services. He dresses like an indie kid because the only clothes he can get are granddad’s hand-me-downs, and in English Hicksville you can guess how well this works out. Sensing a kindred spirit, Jon begins showing up at Luke’s house every day, and a reluctant friendship is born. The story is saved from doom and gloom by the honesty of the writing. Nothing is garish, nothing is overstated, and what we get are two kids who have been through hell, and are finding solace in the company of another lonely soul.


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