Characters & their development: 5
Personal enjoyment: 4
What I liked
-The mystery surrounding the location and Main Characters name
What I was meh about
-Some of the long sentences were harder to digest.
In an unspecified time and location, an unnamed boy is living what he feels to be an idyllic life in the faded and peeling Lido where his father is a lifeguard. He idolises his father – never more so than when he saves the life of a suicidal man – and he comes to believe that heroism is all.
The arrest of his sister Lilly later that summer brings the halcyon days to an abrupt end, and his family is torn apart, with Lilly sent to jail and the boy set to a boarding house for dysfunctional boys, far away from his home – The Fell. The boys in the home become his family and they band together against their enemies, both real and imagined, and they become family.
non illegitimus carborundum – don’t let the bastards get you down.
This was a book that took me back to feelings of my teenage years (which yes, okay, were not that long ago) but specifically, it gave me a reminiscent feel of a more relatable version of catcher in the rye (with a main character you don’t want to throttle!)
The Fell, by Robert Jenkins is a coming of age novel set in an undisclosed location with a nameless main character. We follow him from his young years, where he spent his time worshipping his father and the lido, to his teenage years, where rebellion and something firey settled deep in his chest. This story shows the main character grow and form friendships and relationships that alter the way he sees the world.
We start off with our protagonist around probably ten or eleven (though we never learn his age) as he follows his father to the lido, a community swimming pool where he is a lifeguard. We see the tranquil life he leads, a starry-eyed youth who wants to live up to his fathers’ prestige. But darkness quickly settles into this novel like it does in real life when someone hangs themselves, and his family starts to break down.
They said the devil was on the whole neighbourhood that summer.
Not long after, our protagonist is sent to Fellan House, a boarding school for trouble makers with teachers horrendous enough to make your skin shake. This is where the story really kicks off, as the protagonist quickly makes friends, and starts to find his way around the new world being set out for him. This is the point where an important question is posed, who are the villains? Is it the kid who got shoved into Fellan house for a misdemeanour, or the teacher who shows a little too much interest in a child? What about the Cuban who owns the shop down the road that the cops just love to drive by? or the cops themselves? It bends your ideas of what is right and wrong until you no longer know who the real villains are.
An interesting part of this novel is the fact that the protagonist does not always have the best role models. Leon, a boy he looks up to, doesn’t always care for the rules, or ‘Cuban Jesus’ who might just toe the line of the law. But he sees both the good and the bad in everyone, and more often than not, tucks the bad away and in a childlike manner, only sees the good in those who he loves.
But the real ‘villains’ in this novel were interesting, teachers and cops that felt like they had been drawn into the story from the real world. The issues they put forth were real ones we see in the world, and the way that the main character and his friends reacted, fit teenage boys to a T.
Death close up is a cold and heartless hard bastard.
Previously I mentioned that this reminded me of Catcher in the Rye, and it really does. Perhaps not in the text, characters or events. But in the undertone, deep in the stories bones, it feels like it’s made of the same kind of metal. It’s a gritty coming of age story that you don’t really understand on your first read, and the more you think about it, the more you come to love it.
A really intriguing parallel between the two novels is how they both look at the fakeness of adulthood. They show a young character seeing the truth hidden in the adult world, exposing how adults don’t always know everything, and more often than not, can be the monsters of the world.
I walked out of this intrigued beyond belief. I had found a character that I wanted to despise in the main character for the things he thought and the violence he sought, but he felt far too human, and relatable in ways that made you sympathise with him.
I would definitely recommend this as a book to get boys interested in reading, or for any one who is after a story that will sit with you for a long time. If you’re a fan of CATCHER IN THE RYE, LORD OF THE FLIES or THE OUTSIDERS, then pick this up.