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Old 09-29-2012, 02:57 PM   #26
General and the Genius: G
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I agree with others that have stated that the voice of Jason did not sound like that of a 13 year old boy, not just the manner of speaking including vocabulary, but the point of view on things as well as adult knowledge. It struck me as more the voice of an adult looking back at his recollection of being 13 and attempting to sound like a 13-year old doing so.

That said I felt the author did a really good job of describing what it was like to be a boy of that age who is bullied verbally, mentally, and physically. Describing well not only the near constant state of fear that exceeds in most cases the actually reality, but also the psychological difficulty at a time when an adolescent boy is just coming to grips with his attraction to girls and insecurity about how girls view him. Jason is not just humiliated by the actual bullying, but perhaps worse by the girls laughing at him for it. Even though just a few years later what girls will consider important will change substantially, and yet more as they become adults, a 13 year old boy experiences life as it is at that time. That will have dramatic impact on his self image and confidence that is very difficult to grow out of. I did think that the author sometimes tended to give Jason a long view of things that is unrealistic for a 13 year old.

I also thought that the author suggested an unrealistic solution to the problem relative to real life. Jason manages to stand up to the bullies, and immediately finds unquestioning support from adults, both at the school and from his father. The bullies are expelled from the school, he has his first romantic and physical relationship with a girl, and any long term consequences of his standing up the bullies are eliminated by his immediately relocating to a new town where his past will be erased. Really just too much of a tidy and happy ending. Not when even today adults are likely to treat bullying as a case of “boys will be boys” and a normal right of passage benign game, instead of the unrepentant predator unwilling prey experience it is.

I am also curious about how male readers will view this book versus female readers. Not just because the story is told from the point of view of a 13-year old boy, but because it really describes the experiences of a male of that age. I am sure that age can be just as difficult for girls, but likely different woes and uncertainties to work through?

I liked the story of that watch, and how much Jason feared to tell his father about how he damaged it. I do recall those days well, though probably I would place them at an earlier age than 13. I once lost a relatively expensive book that was given to me and spent months worrying about how my parents would react. When I finally told my mother about it I think that her anger at the time was as much motivated by how big a deal I thought it was telling her than the actual fact that I lost the book.

I also thought that events at times were contrived to make moral points that the author wished to make. As an example Jason attends a meeting with his father on how the community can prevent a group of gypsies locating there. All sorts of prejudices are offered as a reason why the community must prevent that. The very next day Jason has a mishap that leads him to finding himself receiving assistance from a camp of gypsies where he learns that they are really just ordinary people trying to get by and not the ogres that they were made out to be.

Originally Posted by issybird View Post

I'm older than Jason and never was a boy, so I do have a question for the men: Were 13 year-old boys really so innocent in the early 80s? Were you at 13? (no one need reveal his age ) I know I was clueless when I was 13, but the kids now frankly scare me.
Let's see 1967 was the year that I lived through being a 13-year old (I don't mind being specific as my birth year has always been in my board name here). I can recall when one of the boys in my circle obtained a Playboy magazine and what a big deal we thought that was and how we had to keep our secret hidden. Those not old enough to know must be informed that in 1967 the nudes in Playboy did not even reveal the pubic area of the women. So yes I was probably as innocent as Jason at that age, and just as ignorant about the realities of sex. I do have to wonder, at least in the United States, whether that was true in the early 1980s. It seems to me that the equivalent to my Playboy would have been actual pornography then, perhaps even an explicit sex video.

Originally Posted by fantasyfan View Post
The adolescents I taught in that decade certainly struck me as being innocent. They seemed more open to the simple pleasure of listening to or sharing a story or experience. Certainly much more so than students I was teaching in later years. Of course, this doesn't mean they can't be very cruel to one another. Adolescence is a dreadful phase and I think that in the eighties {and certainly in earlier decades} adolescent boys didn't fully comprehend the biological energies that were exploding in their bodies. So they frequently turned to peer groups and created their own social myths.

I was, however, appalled by the teachers as presented in the book. Some displayed and evidently enjoyed a kind of sarcastic, supercilious, conscious cruelty towards pupils. That kind of cruelty was far worse than the rather bestial violence of the "hard" boys.
That is interesting fantasyfan. My mother actually taught in public schools as a substitute teacher in the years 1966 through 1973, that in grades 1-3. I recall her expressing dismay in the latter years at what seemed like decreasing innocence of her students over time. Where once a student would raise his hand and ask to be excused “to go to the toilet,” in later years this turned into “I have to pee” or “I have to sh**.”
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