Charlie Bucktin is a loner. He’s a smart, bookish boy who doesn’t have many friends in his small Australian hometown in the 1960s. He’s working his way through his father’s library of classics when a knock sounds on his bedroom window. Charlie is surprised to find Jasper Jones, the town’s “bad boy,” asking him to slip away into the night and lend him a hand.
The story unravels a mystery and the events lead to Charlie uncovering many adult secrets. The knowledge forces him to grow up quickly in the face of racism, adultery, abuse, and disappointment.
“I would have been free of all this. I would have stayed safe in my room. I might have read a little longer. Then I would have slept like I used to. I would have woken as I normally would have. None the wiser. Much the lighter. I’d never have known Jasper Jones, I’d never have shared his story, I’d never have known this awful brick in my stomach. Misery and melancholy and terror would just be words I knew, like all those gemstones I collected in my suitcase that I never knew a thing about.”
Jasper Jones is a Printz Honor Book. The plot is well-developed and the characters are complex. The mystery is interesting, but it’s Charlie’s personal growth that makes it memorable. There were many passages I wanted to slow down and reread in the book. Observations about how people behave, questions about his actions, doubts about what he thought he could count on. Passages that made me stop and think or just had a unique turn of phrase that made a particularly vivid picture in my head.
I started listening to this as an audiobook and loved the performance by Matt Cowlrick. Cowlrick has a lovely Australian accent that really brought Charlie to life. I was so interested in finding out how the book ended that I also checked out the book so I could finish it without having to drive around and around the block.
Reviewers have listed this as appropriate for ages 12 and up. There is some bad language and appropriately stupid puns. The topics covered are definitely of an adult nature. There’s a lot here to facilitate a good book discussion for both young adults and adults.
Check the WRL catalog for Jasper Jones.
Check the WRL catalog for Jasper Jones in audiobook format.