The Gone Book
The front cover of this book comes swaddled in enthusiastic endorsements from some well–known Irish writers. My first impression on reading a few chapters, however, was of a fairly predictable YA story. Yet, on closer inspection, the author delivers an ostensibly gritty read. Matt is a Limerick skateboarder struggling, like his two brothers, with the trauma of a bifurcated marriage.
He and his friends Mikey and Anna also have a smattering of bullying on their plate (or at least they do at the beginning of the story), and diary entries in the form of letters written by Matt to his absent mother – the eponymous Gone Book – form part of the mix too. These elements are well-trodden themes in this kind of fiction, although the plot’s dramatic and violent lurches only increase over the course of the novel, building to a cataclysmic climax in the last few chapters.
There’s also lots of swearing, farting (courtesy of Mikey) and bursting into tears. The earthy humour often seems incongruous and forced (although the characterisation of Matt’s fitness-obsessed dad eventually yields subtler comic dividends). I found the second half of the story, set mostly in Lahinch, where Matt exchanges a skateboard for a surfboard, generally stronger.
Overall, though this is not one of the very best YA novels I’ve read, it does have its merits, and despite its flaws is likely to leave the reader feeling emotionally drained.