Rash

Gramps, who was born in 1990, once told me that when he was my age the only way to wind up in prison in the USSA (back when it had only one S) was to steal something, kill somebody, or use illegal drugs.

So this is – at least partly – a YA version of Twenty-Thirty. Sadly the world building drops off for a hurried teen version of Prison Break mixed with a sport (football) story.

Main character Bo (short for Bono), is the odd one out. In a super safe, barely criminal, society, he’s the one with half of the family in jail and a grandfather that keeps bringing up illegal things. Bo has an anger problem and that puts him into trouble: an one way trip a correctional facility.

Life there is brutal and monotonous, but of course he manages to become part of an elite team pretty soon. And this team does illegal things: play something called football, without any protection. This looks like the right place for some Life Lessons, but Pete Hautman seems to be to enthralled by explaining several football maneuvers.

The second half and ending seems to be a bit rushed, which really breaks the initial fun down. Not bad, not very good either.

Rash, Pete Hautman, Simon & Schuster 2006

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Afrikaners

‘Wat neuk ons so met die Hollanders?’ vroeg columnist Max Du Preez zich ooit af in het dagblad Beeld.

Hebben blanken een plek in Zuid Afrika? Hebben Afrikaners een plek in Zuid-Afrika? Net zoals het niet zo makkelijk is om deze vraag te beantwoorden, is het ook niet simpel om dit boek te omschrijven. Fred de Vries schreef eerder over het onderwerp voor verschillende tijdschriften, en woonde ook in Zuid Afrika. Door middel van geschiedenis en heden, interviews en persoonlijke ervaringen probeert hij een beeld te scheppen van de regenboognatie die maar geen regenboog wil vormen. Als dat al een goed idee is.

Als liefhebber van Zuid Afrika waren er genoeg (geschiedkundige) feiten om mij toch nog mee te verrassen. Vooral het onderscheid tussen Afrikaner en Boer en Afrikaners pro en contra een (afgescheiden) blanke staat was nieuws voor mij. Zo vaak is Boer nog synoniem voor elke witte Zuid Afrikaan, en wordt hij dan weggezet als een extremist à la Eugene Terre’blanche.

Genoeg nieuwe informatie dus, en op de af en toe overdosis aan noten na, vlot geschreven. Enige nadeel is de aanwezigheid van (in deze druk) meerdere typfouten. Ik weet niet of dit met haast naar de drukkerij moest, maar het is storend.

Dit boek gaat niet alleen over Afrikaners, maar ook racisme, minderheid versus meerderheid en misplaatste superioriteitsgevoelens. Ondanks de smetjes is het zeker de leestijd waard.

Afrikaners: een volk op drift, Fred de Vries, Nijgh & Van Ditmar 2012

The Shadow Girls

It was one of the last days of the twentieth century.

Immigrants aren’t less human than those that have been living in one country or even city for the past hundred years. Somehow that’s still hard to remember. The reader, led by the hand of main character Jesper Humlin, is taught the tough way.

Jesper isn’t a character to be proud of. He’s a slightly successful poet who thinks the world’s against him and will only do something for his own gain. Meeting three (illegal) immigrants at first makes him think about what an amazing inspiration they’ll be, until he realizes that they’re human and have their own stories, not for him to take.

And like that he steps aside to give room to those stories, to show that sales numbers aren’t that important when you traveled through the entirety of Europe in hope of a better life. It’s brutal, but never sentimental. Because these girls deserve more than just sympathy and a pat on the head, they deserve their humanity.

The Shadow Girls, Henning Mankell, Harvill Secker 2012

The Opposite Bastard

My restart interview seemed to be going swimmingly.

Even though there is plenty of proof in the world that disabled people are people as well, it’s still easy to forget that they experience the same self-doubts, thoughts and emotions as the able ones. The Opposite Bastard gives a dry comical look behind the eyes of a young adult, paralyzed from the neck down.

It all evolves around a play at Oxford, Hamlet. The stereotypical theater kid wants Michael as his Hamlet. The other players, Michael’s caretaker ((ex-)actor), friend and his mother each have their own chapters to share their point of view on happenings. When a sensation-craved documentary maker discovers what’s going on, connections get tighter and smiles more grim.

The biggest point The Opposite Bastard drives home is that everyone is human, no matter what and that no-one can know what they’d do in a life-changing situation until they live through it. Michael isn’t always a lovable pet, his mother’s delusion and clinging to religion doesn’t make her a bad person, Anna isn’t an angel for the sole reason that she dares to be around him.

With a dry humor and accessible language this could well be put down as a summer read.

 The Opposite Bastard, Simon Packham, Macmillan New Writing 2008