This novel has been compared to both “Catcher in the Rye” and “Huckelberry Finn” as a modern day version of troubled boy who finds his way. I can see the comparison and it works. However, I wasn’t really in the right frame of mind for this.
You see, I have a just turned 15 year old boy who is also trying to find his way. And it’s hard to watch.
This story is told from the perspective of 14 year old Chappie who later becomes “Bone.” Bone lives with his mother and abusive stepfather and is living a life of drugs and petty crime. As a mother, I was cringing with the accounting of toking and smoking and really wanted him to just go and reconcile with his mother. I guess it hit a little too close to home.
But Bone didn’t listen to me or HIS mother and in fact he ultimately takes off with his best friend and father figure, a Jamacian Rasta man called I-Man. He and I-Man meet in upstate New York in a broken down school bus but then take their life of drug dealing and petty crime to Jamaica. My favorite part of the book is when Bone is thinking about how much he has grown up under the guidance of I-man. He says: “It’s funny how when you change the way you look on the outside even if it’s only with a tattoo you feel different on the inside. I was learning that it’s true what I-Man’d said, if you work at it long enough and are serious you can become a brand new beggar.”
The characters are likeable, the plot moves along and Banks does an incredible job of creating believable dialogue and channeling the thoughts of a 14 year old troubled boy.
And while I said earlier at times it hit close too home, I realize that my job with my son is to be here, to care, and to make sure I am here to listen. I think the hardest part of raising teenagers is watching them make mistakes and knowing you have to watch it all happen. That they have to figure it out on their own. I hope my son meets his own I-Man who teaches him how to be “a brand new beggar.” Whatever the heck that means!