An inappropriately good read for young and young-at-heart

John Millen
John Millen |

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Highly Inappropriate Tales For Young People

By Douglas Coupland and Graham Roumieu

Published by William Heinemann

ISBN 978 0 434 02159 8

The title of this collection of short stories by Canadian satirical writer Douglas Coupland and illustrator Graham Roumieu is a caution that lets young people know what they will be getting into before starting to read.

Don't say you haven't been warned. Here are seven stories that some would say are indeed highly inappropriate for young people. But which young people and exactly how young is young?

For older teens who enjoy tales that are weird, illogical or unusual, this book will do the trick. Do you enjoy the bizarre films of Tim Burton? These stories take Burtonesque storytelling up to the next level. If you're tired of politically correct heroes and heroines who always do the right thing, you'll lap up Coupland's "inappropriate" tales with relish.

Whether they're actually inappropriate is debatable, but they are doubtlessly funny, tasteless and brilliantly weird. If you like to celebrate the seriously bizarre from time to time or just like an off-the-wall laugh, you will enjoy peering into Coupland's unhinged imagination and meeting his enticing cast of miscreants who always do the wrong thing at the right time.

Each story in Highly Inappropriate Tales features a character that you definitely wouldn't want to know in real life. The book's first anti-hero sets the tone for what is to follow. Perhaps the adventures of Donald, the Incredibly Hostile Juice Box, come too early, because nothing that comes later could possibly match the odd darkness of this story.

Donald is the anti-hero to end all anti-heroes. He doesn't have one redeeming feature in his character. He runs rampage round the school where he has been thrown into the rubbish bin, terrorising all the other nice juice boxes. He lures his unsuspecting rivals into the path of cars and loves to watch them get squashed. You'll probably never look at a drinks carton in the same way again.

Sandra, the Truly Dreadful Babysitter, is exactly that. She takes her charges shoplifting, encourages them to set fire to property and abandons them in a cemetery at night. The most frightening thing is that she thinks she is the perfect babysitter and that everyone else is out of step with her methods. Everything about her is intriguingly wrong, and her actions and attitudes will leave appreciative readers with a guilty smile.

The cast of evil-doers is rounded off by Hans, the Weird Exchange Student; Brandon, the Action Figure with Issues; Cindy, the terrible Role Model; Kevin, the Hobo Minivan, and Mr Fraser, the Undead Substitute Teacher. You get the picture.

All the inappropriateness here is tongue-in-cheek and piled on for comic effect. So, laugh, feel a bit guilty and enjoy ... if you like you a touch of the weird every now and again.

John Millen can be reached at [email protected]