Saturday, 17 November 2012

Ostrich Boys

Ostrich Boys
Keith Gray
London, Random House, 2008, 353p

The title of this book intrigued me. Ostrich Boys. I read the whole book, and was still confused about the title. And then I reread the blurb. And right down the bottom of the cover, it says:

Ostrich n. 1. flightless, fast-running African bird; 2. creature known for burying its head in the sand

Gray's novel is the story of three friends who steal the ashes of their recently dead friend, Ross, with the plan to take him to his namesake in Scotland. They want to give him a fitting memorial, as back at home, they feel that their friend has not received the respect he is due.

Of course, being teenage boys, they have no consideration for the feelings of others, including Ross' parents. Unfortunately, Gray didn't go into much detail over this issue, or not as much detail as I would like. 

Fortunately, he does intricately detail the thoughts and feelings of the three boys. The reader goes right into the mind of the teenagers, which meant it was easy to connect to them - to understand their motivations and fears. Of which there are many. These boys struggle with the guilt they feel over their friend's death, especially after rumours begin to circulate that Ross committed suicide. First the boys lash out and blame others - the school bully, the less-than-sympathetic school teacher, Ross' parents. But through the journey, the boys begin to reflect on what they could have done better. Should they have listened to Ross? Should they have helped him? Was he crying out for help?

Teenage life is always difficult. Many feel that the whole world is against them, or that they should be the centre of the universe. Teen years are like a journey, like this story, through which young people grow and change. Gray uses death to contextualise this journey - sometimes it takes something as big as a death to show young people the way. But hopefully this book will help. Gray brings the reader right inside the mind of the boys; so I hope that the reader will learn something about life through the eyes of the fictional friends. And it's great to finally find a writer who truly appeals to boys, though I also think a young, open-minded girl might enjoy this, too.

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