Reading Hoodie was both entertaining and difficult. Taking place in West London the summer after school lets out, the story centers on a group of boys, Ben, Mo, Luca and Dave. The boys call themselves the "Shady Boys" after Eminem's release of "The Real Slim Shady".
These kids hang out, drink and smoke pot; sometimes by themselves, sometimes with females. Ben a.k.a. Hoodie is just sixteen years old and is being raised by his mother. The Shady Boys attend Paddington Comprehensive school and unlike the rest of the group, Ben doesn't want to move onto sixth form, he wants to get a job now that school is out. He's never known his father who left when he was just three years old, but Ben keeps a worn photo of him in his bedside drawer.
In the midst of the drugs, booze and street fighting, are of course teenage hormones running rampant. Ben struggles with understanding girls and their mysterious behavior.
As the story flows, local homeless man Old Joe tries to give Ben sound advice but Ben and the boys seem to spiral further and further downhill. They even make the poor decision to steal and sell dope.
Ben finds a sort of comfort in wearing his hoodie and "hiding" underneath it.
"He pulled his hood over his head on the way out. He liked the sense of security it gave him, and the feel of its fleecy lining rubbing against the sides of his head. Even when the weather was warm, he preferred it up. It closed him off from the outside world and gave him the anonymity he sought, reflecting the detachment he so often felt from it. Just as he had grown up with Bayswater as his neighbourhood comfort zone, his hood had started to become his very own personal comfort zone within a comfort zone. Somewhere he could retreat to and from where he could safely and privately view the world."
I like gritty type stories about street life like Trainspotting and Green Street Hooligans and the book Hoodie was reminiscent of those kinds of stories.
There's guns, drugs and fighting within the lives of this group of teenage boys. They are all in need of guidance, desperately.
As I read about some of their behavior and decision making, I wondered what the heck they were thinking.
Sometimes Ben's thought process made more sense. He'd find insights on life as he'd try to figure things out.
There's plenty of shocking moments within the story and I found myself immersed in Brendon Lancaster's storytelling. I just had to know if Ben would be alright. I also enjoyed the West London setting and the jargon the characters use.
Aside from Ben, my second favorite Shady Boy was Mo. He was always there for Ben, always a good friend to him, as much as he could be. Mo is the character that shocked me with his confession towards the end of the book.
Being a mother of a sixteen year old boy myself, reading YA books such as Hoodie inevitably strike a chord. It's uncomfortable to read stories like this where the young protagonist is involved in self destructive behavior.
Ben was really trying to make amends and make a better life for himself, and I hoped for his happy ending as he really is a good kid. His not knowing who his father was tugged at my heartstrings. And when he discovers his father's identity, it really was an awful moment for him.
Deep down Ben knows something great will happen for him, if only he can wait for it. He wants to find love so badly with a girl named Isabelle, yet she is distant and aloof. His other friend Dave, is up to no good. As I read I hoped Ben would break away from these bad influences. I kept thinking he so desperately needs a father or a father figure to guide him.
I recommend Hoodie if you're in the mood for a gritty coming of age story with glimpses of hope here and there. Overall this is a starkly realistic, shocking and sad tale about a boy who just wants to find the light at the end of the tunnel.