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English teacher interested in language and culture, and also in fiction using magic, myth, folklore and the supernatural. Now teaching part-time in a Leicester Upper School (ages 14-19) and also writing for children, teens and teachers.

Thursday, 24 May 2012

Thrilling Thursday Review: A Waste of Good Paper by Sean Taylor

This strong-voiced contemporary YA reminded me of Fifteen Days Without a Head by Dave Cousins, probably because both focus on family (and school) issues from a male teen perspective.

Author: Sean Taylor
Title: A Waste of Good Paper
Genre: Contemporary realism (YA)
Publisher: Frances Lincoln
Published: May 2012

Source: won from the publisher in a Twitter giveaway

Find it at Amazon UK or Goodreads

The blurb says:
Pete says this is a writing book he's only giving ME and it's PRIVATE and I can write what I want. But SORRY PETE there's nothing I want to write...

Pete's alright but it's a DUMB idea he's got about this book because the problem last year was what FATHEAD BARRY and the others were saying about my mum. And what happens if they start DISSING her again?

I'm writing this because of what's happened. And that is my mum's ex-boyfriend JON SHOWED UP. And BOTH his arms were BROKEN...

A searingly honest, funny and totally brilliant debut novel

My verdict: A strong story made even better by its great voice. Recommended reading for teens (and teachers!)
The extracts given in the blurb are absolutely typical of the whole book. Jason's voice is strong and refreshing and sounds absolutely authentic for a teen boy in his situation. He's in some kind of special school for kids with behavioural problems and his teacher Pete tries to encourage him by giving him this book to enable him to express himself. There is gentle humour in that Jason uses the book to complain about how the book is a stupid idea and won't help him, and yet of course we do see him make progress as the story unfolds.

Jason is a brilliant character. He is, of course, not without his problems: he can be stubborn and surly and many other things that you might expect of a lad who is seen as too difficult for mainstream school. Pete is clearly a great teacher and he is right that writing will help Jason. We see Jason begin to admit and accept what his real problems are as we go through the book.

The author has worked as a visiting writer with schools of this type, and this experience shines out clearly through the text. It's obvious that Sean Taylor has real knowledge of what these institutions are like, and how adults in different roles interact with these kids. He also has done a fabulous job of conveying a complex story with a relatively limited narration style. Jason's voice feels very authentic - there are times when his writing seems quite childish and immature - and yet it isn't monotonous to read. 

Overall, I was very impressed with this and enjoyed it immensely. It's a fairly quick read that I think teens will relate to, but I do feel that adults (especially teachers) can also get a lot of it.

1 comment:

  1. It's almost worth buying this book for the title alone! Thanks for sharing your thoughts.


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