I've just finished it. I had to stretch it out a bit - didn't want to say goodbye to Jace y'see.
Black Swan Green is the town Jason Taylor and family live in and the book's events are set out as a year in the life of Jason - crucially his 13th.
David Mitchell writes superbly but it's how much he gets that terrifying 13th year right that continually impressed me. Same as Nick Hornby gets Marcus in About A Boy.
I went to a boys' secondary school in NZ but the school life of Jason sounded a lot like mine, minus the girls.
The girl thing is a particular minefield that Mitchell nails:
Melanie Pickett was half right. I don't know whether or not I know the facts of life. You can't ask adults 'cause you can't ask adults. You can't ask kids 'cause it'd be all round school before first break. So either everybody knows everything but nobody's saying anything, or else nobody knows anything and girlfriends just sort of...happen.The casual violence/bullying is spot on too.
Teachers could never be relied upon to spot undercurrents and the big guys in my classes always seemed to get away with their stand over tactics. Like Jason, I learned how to avoid trouble for the most part but it wasn't easy.
Football was my savior at school - I'd been in Auckland rep teams all through the grades which meant a certain mana, and I knew some of the cooler guys at school through that. Not that they sought me out for friendship, but I was left alone for the most part in the third form. Handy!
Fourth form (and life in the notorious 4B) was a different story. Things would get worse before they got better.
On to a new book now: Jonathan Raban's Driving Home. More on that to come.
Love and peace - Wozza