Boy seeks help to find real killer

PUBLISHED : Monday, 25 June, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 25 June, 2012, 12:00am


Jasper Jones
By Craig Silvey
Published by Windmill Books
ISBN 978 0099 537540

A knock on his bedroom window one summer night in 1965 changes the comfortable, innocent life of 13-year-old Charlie Bucktin.

He looks outside to see Jasper Jones, 15, an outcast in the Australian mining town of Corrigan. Charlie is surprised by Jasper's visit; the two boys aren't friends, or even alike. The older, mixed-race boy is rebellious and unpopular, while Charlie is studious, and has a passion for reading.

As Charlie says: 'Jasper Jones has a terrible reputation in Corrigan. He's a thief, a liar, a thug, a truant.'

But Jasper desperately needs Charlie's help.

Charlie actually finds Jasper's dangerous nature intriguing. So, even though he's a little scared, he wants to impress Jasper and agrees to go with him.

They walk through town to Jasper's secret hideout in the bush, where Charlie is shown a girl's body: Jasper's girlfriend, Laura, is dead.

Charlie wants to tell the police, but Jasper believes someone is trying to frame him for the murder. He fears that, if the police find Laura's body, he'll be the prime suspect.

Instead, Jasper wants the terrified Charlie to help him dispose of the body in a nearby lake and then help him find the real killer.

Stunned and not thinking straight, Charlie - who makes an unlikely, geeky hero - agrees to help.

Author Craig Silvey is one of Australia's best new writers. His first novel, Rhubarb, won critical praise and a number of awards.

Although his latest story - touching on small-town racism and the relationship between law and justice - won't suit everyone's tastes, it stands out among the many trivial offerings swamping young adult fiction bookshelves.