Boy A Paperback – 29 Apr 2004
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Creepy and involving... From the beginning, Trigell weaves a sense of drama and a disturbing feeling of inevitability (Independent)
Trigell brilliantly depicts the pressures of living with a terrible secret... written with a naive clarity which evokes the unfamiliar wonders of the outside world (Guardian)
A fine and moving debut novel... Harrowing at times, this compulsively readable novel is more optimistic than it sounds... a rare treat (Independent)
Eerie parallels to the Bulger case abound in this modern day immorality tale about the attempted rehabilitation of a child implicated in murder... delivered with a horrific sense of foreboding (Arena)
A shocker of a first novel... told with extraordinary restraint (New York Times)
Grim reading to be sure, but you turn the final page with real sympathy for a child-killer - which is a frankly amazing achievement from young Mr Trigell (FHM)
A challenging novel of atrocity and redemption... [A] fast-paced, thought provoking read, perhaps all the more significant for the questions it can't answer (Big Issue)
A thought-provoking commentary on human nature... A gripping and disturbing read, Boy A is a carefully cultivated work that challenges readers while also being entirely gripping (Good Book Guide)
Jonathan Trigell's striking debut, Boy A, at times cuts too close, but its that same in-your-face, relentless pursuit of personal salvation that makes it so intriguing. Without sugarcoating its darker side, Boy A lives up to its stark initial promise all the way through to its conclusion (Pages)
Trigell masterfully builds sympathy for Jack (Entertainment Weekly)
The book bristles with issues of personal responsibility, social justice and the reformative value of prison life. It would give reading groups much to ponder over (New Books Mag)
The conclusion of this novel ensures it remains a genuine page-turner to the last (Big Issue in the North)
[A] searing and heartfelt novel... Excellent (Buzz)
A singularly powerful novel... A disturbing yet gripping story that explores both moral and practical questions, as well as the horrific negative repurcussions of media hysteria (Midwest Book Review)
This debut by Trigell is ultra-stylish and just dark enough, dealing with a difficult subject without plastering on the rose-tint. Boy A deserves recognition as a formidable and engrossing read (BookMunch)
Trying to readjust to a society he was never familiar with, the journey winds through the moral undertones of forgoing the bitterness of the past and the dexterity of self reconstruction (Pulp)
This was a fascinating novel and really challenged my perceptions and prejudices (Northwich Mail)
A compelling narrative, a beautifully structured piece of writing, and a thought-provoking novel of ideas. It's a wonderful debut (Manchester Unilife)
From the Publisher
Boy A is the story of a young man, who, convicted of a monstrous childhood crime, is released into society after spending his youth behind bars. Since his real identity must be concealed from the media and the public, he chooses a new name, Jack, from the Big Book of Boys' Names. Boy A is the story both of society's bungled attempt to rehabilitate Jack into everyday life, and of Jack's quest for stability and normality in an alien world.
Pondering nature and nurture, crime and punishment, the media and personal integrity, Boy A is a stunning first novel written with skill and compassion.See all Product description
Top customer reviews
Boy A chooses a new name, Jack Burridge, to preserve his anonymity which is part of the terms of his release and then with the help of his ‘uncle’ Terry who had been a member of staff at the home he was first sent to follow his conviction. One of the minimal number of people who know Jack’s true identity. Jack has a job but first he must learn what it is like to live in a world he last left as a child.
The book skips backwards and forwards through the time periods from before Boy A met Boy B to after he left the adult prison with his new name. Each chapter starts with a letter of the alphabet starting with A is for Apple. A Bad Apple. All the way through to Z, which is for Zero in case you are wondering. Just finding the titles that match the content of each chapter must have been a challenge and the sparse language used with its short sentences is perfect for the subject matter. This book feels like a work of art as well as a captivating tale.
Fortunately, given the tough subject matter, the torn sympathies as Boy A’s life is revealed through not just his own eyes, but later on, his father’s too, there are some humorous parts to the book too, most predictably when Jack meets a girl and the attraction is mutual, but most often it is bittersweet humour with a shared moment with a cellmate before his monotonous life rolls onwards.
As we see the horrors Jack endured in prison it is almost odd that my sympathies were highest when he starts his new job and makes friends, and of course a girlfriend Michelle. It is here that it becomes apparent how hard it is to hide your entire life up to a point in your twenties. As Jack becomes close to those around him, his enormous secret puts a boundary up between them as he unwillingly hands out lies to cover the truth.
But nor is this book just about Boy A, Terry and his life at the point where they overlap tells a different story, a fairly normal one of a broken marriage leading to a strained relationship with his own son as he also guards the truth and builds the lies of the life he hopes to see prove that rehabilitation is possible.
The way the stories of Boy A, his parents, Boy B, Terry the psychologist along with Jack’s new friends and his girlfriend all intertwine, create a thought-provoking and compelling read. The book is just the right length the author resisting the urge to brow beat the reader and the ending perfectly pitched. A book to ponder over and in the end marvel at how in the right hands, such an emotive topic can be explored.
'Jack' has finally been released from prison after serving a sentence for a brutal crime when he was a child. He is given a new identity and taken far from his home town in order to start a new life.
For me, this wasn't very well written and actually quite dull and slow-going. A decent enough concept for a story but not well executed. Glad to be finished.
Boy A is one of those novels that will make you 'think'. Putting aside the sensationalist media reports about recent children who have killed, the reader can get a glimpse into what life could be like for someone who has been convicted of a very serious offence.
Powerful, gripping and of course, sparking controversy, but never trite, never overly emotional - hard-hitting and gripping writing.
Very highly recommended.
The reader is made to feel something of a voyeur - because the shame of Boy A (now called Jack) is so deep. There are indications that Boy A is in the same position as one of the killers of Jamie Bulger - of being described by the media as a monster who has done something unforgiveable and inhuman. The reader is put in the position, frequently, of the public. There are allusions to the publicity surrounding the crime in the tabloids, and the role of the media in Jack's life is fundamental to the plot: despite the theory of crime and punishment, it seems that there can be no redemption, and no new rebirth.
The author intends us to feel not only pity for the protagonist, but also to explain how he has come to be this way - exploring through the medium of the old case files and the history of Boy A how he has never received the love and attention that would have led him to grow up as a socially responsible member of society, and thus how Boy A has lacked the appropriate stimuli to develop properly. There is even the possibility that Boy A was the accomplice to the crime committed by the other boy, and that he was unaware of the extent of the crime caused. As a child he has been tried in an adult court, and both prior and post sentence, he has never really been cared for by adults. Only his cell mate and his probation officer have a link with him.
Above all, this is a story about love and the lack of it, and of innocence and corruption - Jack's probation officer has formed more of a close relationship with Jack than with his own son, from whom he is estranged following his divorce from his wife. The denouement centres around jealousy and envy - Zed being the complete opposite of Boy A, yet someone who lives within the law as it is understood by the media.
If I were to summarize the obvious about this book it would be "hug a hoodie". But this misses out the way that the book plays to the reader - rather carefully manipulating the reader throughout, so we are put through a mixture of responses (voyeurism, shock, horror, sympathy, empathy, distaste and judgement) as we work through the alphabet of who Jack is: Jack the lad, Jack of all trades, all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy - and who he might, with a bit of luck, become.
This is an excellent novel, and worth spending time on, if only to explore your own reactions to the situations described.
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