Book review: ‘The Outcast"
Vail CO, Colorado
Everyone is allowed to have their own idea of what it means to be an outcast. James Dean was one type of outcast, Jeffrey Dahmer was clearly another. Lewis Aldridge lands somewhere in between these two and comes from the creative mind of first-time author Sadie Jones.
“The Outcast,” which follows the Aldridge family through good times, and more commonly bad, is written with magnificent detail and attention to dialogue and setting. Jones has a knack for drawing the reader in and transporting them to suburban life just outside of London in the ’40s and ’50s. And if Jones hadn’t let absurdity get in the way, she would have potentially written a rookie masterpiece.
Unfortunately, her idea of what an outcast is seems to be quite cliche at times and actually ends up coming off as a school girl fantasy that SHE (not tom-boy neighbor Kit Carmichael, as ends up happening in the book) either always wanted to live, or maybe partially did live.
What begins logically with lots of insight into the mind of a troubled boy who loses someone he loves dearly morphs into a weird story about a boy meeting and becoming smitten with a prostitute, getting into a fist fight, and then turning into an arsonist (with some in-between). The unfortunate part is that Jones built up so much potential with the characters early on the reader is let down later in the book when it comes time for issues to be resolved, and they are, but in a patently absurd fashion.
What’s worse about the book than the absurdity is how uninspired it all seems. What began as social commentary about being judgmental (and suburban life in general) became a cheesy love story soap opera or a movie of the week, rife with unnecessarily awkward sex scenes and goofy melodrama. Maybe Jones wasn’t intending to write a social commentary but based on how she begins the book and the various topics she touches on “death, child abuse, sexual assault, and more ” that’s what she did.
Jones has done several things quite remarkably, most notably creating the characters and then introducing them to the reader in a most magnificent manner.
She has also shown that even though she falls into traps that seem either a little too obvious or a little too ridiculous, she certainly knows how to write. So while characters Lewis Aldridge and Kit Carmichael may prove to be a little too story-book for some readers, Jones provides proof of what she is quite clearly capable of.
Andrew Fersch writes weekly book reviews for the Vail Daily. E-mail comments about this review to email@example.com. This book is available for purchase at the Bookworm in Edwards.
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