Anyone who is a fan of David Mitchell (and even those who have not read him) will love this book. However, don't expect the style of his previous books: Number 9 Dream, Cloud Atlas and Ghostwritten. This is the story of a year in the rather eventful life of Jason Taylor, a boy of 13 growing up in a village called Black Swan Green, Worcestershire, in the early 1980s. Jason, apart from being quite a normal 13 year old, is a stammerer who tries desperately hard to hide his 'secret' from the rest of his schoolmates. His story of his experiences at school is one that anyone who was a teenager can identify with: how he sees his parents, the teachers, bullies, and those strange creatures called girls. But what makes this teenage narrative come alive, what makes you feel like you are there with Jason Taylor is the often brutal honesty with which he tells his truth. He says all the things you thought about as a teenager growing up but didn't dare to articulate. Mitchell also manages to evoke a nostalgia for the 1980s, and his detailing is superb. You remember how you or your parents or friends felt during the recession, or the public mood during the Falklands War. And there is also a nice touch where Mitchell quite unexpectedly introduces a character from one of his stories in Cloud Atlas.
The English countryside and village life is portrayed without the slightest hint of romanticism. A teenage boy doesn't see life like that. This is life in the raw. Jason sees the often brutal contests between boys to establish a pecking order, he is afraid of being ridiculed or beaten up after school, he worries about his status among the rest of the kids and he wonders if he will ever have a girlfriend. Life for young Jason Taylor is very serious indeed. In Black Swan Green, Mitchell makes a rather unpromising subject tense and fascinating. And it's a real pageturner -- you just have to know what happens next. Just buy this book!