Monday, 29 March 2010

A Certain Age by Rebecca Ray

I was expecting a novel of youth gone wild when I took this out of the library, and although Ray’s nameless protagonist is dysfunctional in many respects, the book is also a poignant description of that most excruciating part of everyone’s lives, adolescence.

The rush to attract the attention of unsuitable boys takes up its fair share of the book and our fourteen-year-old narrator finds herself ‘going out’ with a boy at her school called Robin. He smokes weed and introduces her to his puff habit. Which is just as well, as she’s hardly a boozer:

He taught me lots of things and I preferred dope to booze. It didn’t make the room spin and it didn’t make me throw up. And when I woke up the next morning, it didn’t feel like someone had spent the night beating me over the head with a stick of hot candy floss.

Still, alcohol is a great social lubricant, and there are times when you need a little to get the party started. A good example being the end of term school disco. Frumpy friend Dawn has come along and working with the theory that alcohol does funny things to people’s eyesight, our lass tries to get Dawn out on the pull. However, she has to get her pissed first:

We stopped at the Wine Cellar, past Audiovision and just before Boots. I bought a six-pack of alcoholic lemonade and made her drink two of them on the trot. I watched her gag as she finished the second. “See? It’s nice, really, isn’t it?” “No.”

Still, Dawn’s gently drunk before long and we are taken along to find what’s happened to Robin, who appears to have imbibed a little too much loopy juice:

Robin was drunk... He wasn’t just tipsy or merry. Robin was rolling around drunk, and it kind of put Dawn into perspective. I almost felt like a prude – the only person who wasn’t going to spend the last of the evening vomiting up their cash.

Slightly more realistically than in previous posts, anti-peristalsis kicks in:

All of a sudden Robin was pretty much preoccupied. “Shit,” he said. Very dead-pan, and it would have been funny if he hadn’t stumbled away a moment later and vomited onto the concrete.

He’s quickly dumped for his troubles as well. Unfortunately, the next unsuitable boy turns out to be thirty one years old, and this explicitly frank but brave novel neatly ups the dysfunction factor to the completely disturbing...

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