Renee Mihulka – Children's Book Reviews & Writer

Jasper Jones

OVERALL: 5 Stars

Concept:4 Stars
Characters:5 Stars
Plot:4.5 Stars
Writing:5 Stars


Craig Silvey
Abrams Books


Description: Charlie Bucktin is a thirteen year old boy who lives in a small, fictional town in rural Western Australia. One evening, as he is lying in bed, he has a visit from Jasper Jones, a fourteen year old half aboriginal boy who is somewhat of a legend in town for all the wrong reasons. Jasper asks for Charlie’s help, and Charlie, intrigued, follows him into the bush where he is shocked to see the shire president’s daughter, Laura Wishart, hanging, dead, from a tree.

Although solving Laura’s death is the major thread that weaves throughout the book, the book spends more time delving into the lives, views and culture of the small town’s population. It is in essence a coming of age novel, rather than a murder mystery, where Charlie learns a lot, not only about himself but about the adults around him.

Concept: At first blush, the concept behind this book is an old fashioned murder mystery. However as you read further you realise that the murder mystery acts more as a catalyst for Charlie to really open his eyes to the adult world around him, especially racial injustice and prejudice. While trying to unravel the events leading to Laura’s death Charlie starts to delve into the beliefs and motivations of people around him and this shatters many of his own assumptions and beliefs.

Characters: The characters are the novels real strength. Silvey manages to create a number of believable, relatable characters with flaws. It was impossible not to like Charlie, Jasper and Charlie’s best mate, Vietnamese Jeffrey Lu. As Charlie peels away the veneer a child often attributes to adults, the adults come alive as complex individuals rather than symbolic figures./

Plot: The plot meanders and sways and sometimes you forget that Charlie is trying to solve a mystery, but in the end  Silvey manages to cleverly tie everything together. It is not a ‘bang, bang,’ action novel where everything is easy to decipher and out in the open, but rather a thought provoking novel that surprises you with its depth. It’s the kind of book that would make a great Year 12 novel as you could really dissect it and its characters.

Writing: I really loved the way this book was written. It was engaging, interesting and witty. In particular the boyish banter between Jeffrey and Charlie was often hilarious and entertaining but also revealed much. For instance, their dissection of superheroes was not only funny but clever in its message about bravery and risk which are themes that run throughout the novel. Silvey is an excellent writer and after reading this novel I am motivated to read more by him.

PARENTS: This book has many adult themes in it and because of this I would recommend it for teens over the age of 15. There are no descriptions of sex or drug use, but there is violence, racism, infidelity and prejudice. And of course there is the hanging of a 15 year old girl which, if your child is quite sensitive might affect them. However it is a great book to open a teen’s eyes about adults, adult relationships and not just believing everything you hear or have always assumed to be correct.

Things to ask and discuss:

1) Charlie’s relationship with is father changes throughout the novel as Charlie starts to see him and his behaviour in a new light. What events change Charlie’s view? What kind of man is Charlie’s father?

2) What lessons does Jeffrey’s approach to cricket teach us?

3) The book focuses a lot on prejudice. How did you feel about the way Jeffrey was treated? How Jasper was treated? And how Mad Jack Lionel and his daughter in law were treated? Can you relate to this treatment? Is it still happening today? What prejudice did Charlie face? Do you think this kind of prejudice is changing?

4) How do you feel about what Charlie’s Mum did? Can you understand why?

5) A lot of secrets kept by the adults around them caused Charlie, Jasper, Laura and Eliza to assume things and even act in ways that they later regretted. What were these secrets and were the adults justified in keeping them?

Come on comment, you know you wanna.

Book Reviews and Writer