Tuesday 28 February 2017

Review: Young ADult Lex by James Mylet

Quercus, £12.99

Harry Potter readers are growing up and there's a pronounced gap in the market for fiction featuring male protagonists in their late teens.

Lex, short for Alexander, is 17 and about to take his Leaving Cert, with aspirations to study at the London School of Economics. As well as studying, Lex runs a pirate radio station, 'Radio Clifden', and is planning a big musical festival in the town, featuring his favourite band.

When one of his friends, Davey, uses Lex's own radio station to broadcast the fact that Lex is still a virgin and desperately needs a willing girlfriend before he heads off to London, Lex is horrified.

But then Davey puts the kibosh on the musical festival, leaving Lex in a very black place indeed. It's not the most action-packed of books, and my 17-year-old son found it slow, but Lex's voice is so strong, it almost makes up for the lack of plot.

In his 'Author's Note', Mylet (who is British and got the idea for the book when he was on holiday in the West of Ireland) writes 'The Clifden in the story is a fictionalised version of the town in Connemara, Ireland', which is a strange statement.

It would becustomary for authors to either stand by their setting or to invent an original one. Maybe Mylet feels it exonerates him from mistakenly describing Connemara as a hick backwater, filled with non-computer-literate locals who follow 'English' football teams, listen to 'trad ceoil', and are only living there because of their lack of ambition.

It doesn't.

Quibbles about the setting aside, Lex is a surprisingly beguiling novel, the kind of book that sneaks up on you unawares, grabs you by the ankles and you end up liking it despite its failings (the setting, the long rambling asides, the slow pace); or perhaps because of its failings.

Like Lex himself, the book isn't perfect, but that's part of its charm.

Resoundingly un-PC, with all the flaws, hopping hormones, self-absorption and obsessive behaviour of a young man on the cusp of adulthood, older teenager readers will certainly enjoy it.

And let's hope it encourages more Irish writers to tackle the young adult genre.

sarah webb

Sarah Webb's latest book for young teens, Ask Amy Green: Love and Other Drama-ramas will be published next month.

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