There’s been a bit of talk lately about YA being easier to read and (the thinking goes) therefore easier to write. Obviously I don’t think that’s the case, and I don’t believe anyone who reads JASPER JONES by Craig Silvey would claim that either.
JASPER JONES reads like an Australian TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD during the Vietnam war. Charlie, a 13 year old who finds more to relate to in Charles Dickens than the local cricket matches – even if the matches do mean catching fleeting glimpses of Eliza Wishart in the crowd – is reading into the dark hours of the summer night when he hears a voice at his window.
It’s Jasper Jones, the town bad boy, the person who all mothers warn their children about – and he needs Charlie’s help. Deep in the brush Jasper has found a body, Laura Wishart, his secret love who had planned to run away with him. Jasper thinks he knows who the killer is, but he also knows that going to the police himself will only mean cuffs on his hands to go along with the weight of the community’s scorn on his shoulders.
Charlie is a good kid, a smart kid. The kind whose word people will listen to, and so his good reputation lands him side by side with Jasper Jones, under the swaying body of Laura Wishart. Their cover up of the crime and subsequent investigation on their own time leads Charlie down paths he doesn’t think even Mark Twain could have imagined a way out of.
As the townspeople search for the missing girl, Charlie and Jasper’s covert investigation begins to supply answers to questions Charlie wasn’t ready to ask yet. Why do people do bad things? What could possibly drive someone to delight in hurting another human being? And what goes on behind the closed doors of his small town… even the one on his own house?