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4.5 out of 5 stars
Life! Death! Prizes!
Format: Kindle Edition|Change

on 30 March 2012
Quite simply this is the best novel I have read over the last year. It almost has a will of its own, an insistency that demands that you keep reading it and will not let you stop until you breathlessly reach the end.

I'll readily admit that it's not always an easy journey. It can be raw, ragged and uncomfortable, but it has a tender and compassionate core that ultimately restores your faith in humanity.

In Billy Smith May has created an authentic and utterly believable character, emotionally flawed and occasionally almost psychotic. At the outset Billy is ill-equipped to deal with the care of Oscar, his younger brother, as they both try to come to terms with their Mother's murder. But Billy knows that Oscar is relying on him and that he needs to shape up, despite the fact that his own life isn't exactly working out.

May's observations have the precision of a surgeons scalpel and the cast of characters he has assembled are sharply defined and truthfully rendered.

Many reviewers seem to want to compare May to other writers (Nick Hornby, David Nicholls, Kate Atkinson, Dave Eggers and even J.D. Salinger....and that's just on the inside cover of the book!). Personally I think he stands on his own as a major talent without the need for lazy comparisons.

I had wondered whether May could write another book which was as strong and self-assured as his debut "TAG". But this wonderful novel demonstrates that Stephen May is developing into a literary force to be reckoned with.
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on 3 May 2012
This is a terrific story that grabs you on page one and keeps you reading right to the last sentence. Stephen May's portrayal of 19-year-old Billy trying to be a 'dad' to his little brother after their mum's murder is beautifully realised. May gets straight to the heart of the story in unflinching detail. His prose his clear, poetic and he manages to inject humour, drama and tremendous pathos into this sharply observed contemporary story. The narrative has such drive that you simply have to read it in as few sittings as possible. TV producers, listen up - this would make a great screen drama.
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on 25 May 2012
A review drove me to buy this one the following day. I wasn't disappointed. Despite being a relatively short book allbeit in a large format it packs a decent punch.
Dealing with the death of a mother and the completely unswaying determination of a teenager to keep his brother with him with absolutely no understanding of how this could be done. Blindly moving from one day to the next the younger child is simply an extension of his brother, his books and boots are remembered for school but the idea that maybe the adult's life goes on hold while a child grows up is simply not there.
Alongside this plays the authority role, schools, social services and relatives all have to have input and the teenager has no idea how to react to the input and presents a determined figure blocking the way to his brother in simple blind panic mode.
Realistically how many of us would have any idea of different agency roles? Especially as teenagers? This one's background seems to be partly in the "don't trust authority" camp.
Holding down a job, ignoring debts and bills while still trying to carry on and make sure his brother's looked after. Even possibly a girlfriend? Maybe not.
I loved it. The emotion was so sublimely written but intensely there. This one I think can be most appreciated if you've ever been back against the wall.
I hope the next reader finds as much to value as I did and I hope the author writes again.
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on 12 May 2012
Here's something really fresh that I am convinced will end up on all the prize lists this year. And then it'll be a massive hit film. At it least blooming well should be! This book has everything: tension, wit, readability and it's also incredibly original. I honestly don't know anyone who is doing anything like this. Maybe it's a bit Nick Hornby, maybe it's a bit Kate Atkinson, but mainly it's something really new.

The story concerns what happens when a self-absorbed teenage boy (Billy) drifting through a dull gap year job in a museum in a small Essex town, has to suddenly man up because his mum is killed in a robbery. He becomes the guardian of his six year old brother Oscar. The two boys plainly adore each other and this fierce love keeps them going even when times are getting very rough. What stops the story becoming mawkish is the power, energy and humour of Billy's voice (Billy is the narrator). Billy is very opinionated and part of the pleasure of this book is seeing how wrong he is about almost everything...

I almost missed out on this book - I only picked it up because ofr the cover and then my friend told me that the Times had said it was 'as uplifting as a new bra.' How could I resist after that? And now I'm quite evangelical and I really want to spread the word. Take a risk on a new writer and feel smug next year when everyone you know (everyone who likes books anyway) is going on and on about it...

Oh and it's even got a couple of decent sex scenes and they are really hard to do... Heart-warming, funny and sexy - what's not to like?
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on 4 February 2013
I gave this rating because I am really enjoying reading this book. it is very different from any other books I have read in that it has given me, an 80 year old, an understanding of the modern generation., Stephen May is a brilliant writer in the way he conveys to us the experiences and thoughts of a 19 year old today. It is both humorous and sad. I'm glad I stayed with it because I must admit that I was confused at the start of the book and thought that this "was not for me". How wrong I was, I am now enjoying every page. It was certainly deserving of a Costa nomination.
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on 26 April 2012
Firstly, the surprise factor of this book is incredible. From my first being told about it and reading the blurb I thought this book would tell a dark and depressing tale. This, however is not the case. Despite the grim back-story, "Life! Death! Prizes!" has a very light tone. Another thing that caught my attention was the quality of the writing. Stephen May's ability to capture the mind and thoughts of a teenager (much alike my own son who is 18) is second to none. During the book the main character, Billy, is faced with a massive challenge. Like all teenagers would, Billy doesn't even realise that there is an un-achievable task ahead of him. I won't spoil any more, but I will say definitely read this book. It's a masterpiece!
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on 2 July 2014
I loved this book….Funny, poignant and oh so today! I read this book after reading 'Wake up Happy Every day' and will now make a point of reading any book written by Stephen May.
I highly recommend, especially to those who enjoy a real British sense of humour.
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on 7 June 2015
Just ok.
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on 13 April 2013
I thoroughly enjoyed this book, so beautifully written, I couldn't put it down. Looking forward to the authors next book.
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on 26 August 2013
Lovely book which gripped me from the first page so well written couldn't put it down. A really
great book
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