Vernon God Little
London, Faber & Faber, 2005, 277p
Over the course of the last week, I have suffered through hours and hours of waiting around for flights, trains, etc. and yet I initially struggled to engage with the story of Vernon God Little.
This novel is about a teenage boy who gets caught up in a criminal investigation, and is accused of murder. Vernon's best friend, Jesus, kills himself and several of his classmates, and the police suspect another weapon might be involved. Vernon is a reserved, awkward teenager, and his fear of being accused leads to some strange behaviour, including running away to Mexico. Immediately, a man hunt is on as Vernon is accused of every crime between Texas and South America.
Pierre is a very original writer, and I think it was his unique style that stumped me. (That, and the fact that I have heard such brilliant things about this book that I really wanted to love it.) The language used is fluid, often colloquial, slowly dragging you deep into the complex being that is Vernon.
The plot takes some time to eek itself out, though I rather liked this element of the mysterious. Vernon insists he is innocent, but as he does not reveal anything to the reader, you find yourself torn over whether or not to believe him. Was he just in the wrong place at the wrong time? Unfortunately, the people of his home town feed off gossip like leeches, and the evidence quickly stacks up against him: drugs, dirty magazines and homosexuality are all linked to him. And yes, apparently homosexuality is enough to convince some people that a teenager is a murderer...
When Vernon decides to go on the run, the pace picks up, and I found myself engrossed in this investigation, though still not convinced of Vernon's innocence; and by the end of the novel (no spoilers, I promise) I was crying!
Vernon spends most of the novel unable or unwilling to take responsibility for his actions, whether or not they are correctly interpreted by society and the police. His friend, Jesus, becomes a symbol for his confusion, slowly blurring with a need for religious fulfillment. But nothing is ever as simple as Vernon wants it to be, so he must learn to exercise his own power.