***This novel was so complex and delicate, picking away at the prejudices of one small town and charting Charlie’s coming-of-age in a way that reminds me of a flower blooming. At it’s heart this is a story that lingers long after the final page has been read. Set in a small country town in Western Australia during the 1960’s the story begins with a visit from the mysterious Jasper Jones. The outlaw of the small town, Jasper startles our young protagonist, Charlie, by choosing to share with him a shocking and haunting secret. A secret that will change their lives forever. “And it happens like that. Like when you first realise that there is no such thing as magic. Or that nothing actually answers your prayers, or even really listens. That cold moment of dismay, where you feet are kicked from under you, where you’re disarmed by a shard of knowing. He’s right. Jasper Jones is right. He’s really in trouble.” And so begins a quest to put right what has gone wrong, to make sure that Jasper isn’t hanged for a crime he never committed. What also begins is Charlie’s transformation from boy to man. This is the summer where everything changes. Charlie learns the way the world really is; losing his innocence and naivety. He experiences those achingly painful moments of a first love and realises that everyone, even Jasper Jones, is scared sometimes. “I think he’s probably the most honest person in this town. He has no reason to lie. He has no reputation to protect” “Sometimes you know they’re lying even before they’ve started speaking. And it seems the older they get the more brazen and desperate folks become, and they lie about things that don’t even matter. Like my dad with his comb-over, or my mum with her russet hair dye…I don’t know. Maybe they just get so used to it they don’t even notice. Maybe it’s like a creeping curse, and the more you do it the easier it gets. What’s amazing is that they think they’re fooling anybody.” “What kind of world is this? Has it always been this way or has the bottom fallen out of it in the past couple of days? Has it always been so unfair?” “I watch him walk. Straight-backed, chest full of air. And I see it now, just how counterfeit his confidence is. It’s a noise, a distraction, hot air. It’s batman’s cape, it’s my father’s combover.” There are so many things that I loved about this book and it really makes me proud to know that it is an Australian book taking the world by storm. I really loved Silvey’s writing, in particular his easy dialogue. It always annoys me when dialogue in books is stiff and I can’t easily imagine people talking that way or am constantly changing it in my head. This book just flowed. I also felt that Charlie’s romance with Eliza was much more realistic than that of the YA books I have previously read. I really empathised so much with Charlie when he tried to talk to Eliza. “I am nervous. Where is the sharp ballroom wit that I always imagined would punctuate this moment? My wit has abandoned me. Just when I need wit, I am witless.” “I forbear a shriek of pain and put my hands on my hips. I force a smile and hold up my hand, which must end up looking like some sort of strange, leery wince, like I’ve just swallowed a glass of…urine and I’m recommending it.” I loved Jasper and Charlie’s discussion about life and the universe, I would love to quote it but the entire two pages were just to superb to break apart. The only three things that really annoyed me: 1) The cricket. Which to me was just boring. I know, I’m being very un-Australian. 2) The rhyming phrases. They just made it feel a little childish – or maybe that’s just me? 3) The gruesome bits. Jasper Jones was fantastic, I did enjoy reading it and there were so many messages in it. However, the whole time I remained a little sickened by Laura’s death (among other aspects). I used to love watching Crime Investigation Australia (funnily enough I once watched an episode on Eric Cooke) and Forensic Investigators and I love a good murder mystery, but this book made me feel physically sick at times; something that has never happened to me before. This creeping dread stayed with me long after I closed the book. But, perhaps the fact that I was so repelled is actually a compliment to Silvey’s amazingly vivid writing. Despite these niggling things, there was so much that was right with this book. So much. And I am just so glad I read it.