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Grow Up: A Novel Paperback – April 24, 2012

3.3 out of 5 stars 9 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


“An amusing, sometimes ironic look at one fairly feckless lad’s coming-of-age…What comes as a surprise is the wonderfully poetic voice Brooks has given his protagonist…Eat your heart out, Holden Caufield [sic].” — Michael Cart, Booklist

“Eminently readable… Hyper–self-aware…Filled with black humor and fleeting tenderness… Its protagonist, Jasper J. Wolf, imagines himself as a prettier Holden Caulfield, but the end game reveals that the self-reflective young writer is more along the lines of a John Hughes hero, albeit with volumes more narcotics…There’s a timeless if caustic quality to [narrator] Jasper’s minimalist rants [and] there’s an unexpected humor even to the murkiest sequences. Brooks’ work feels richer [than] the transgressive teen drama Skins…as it explores generational angst and the blue-black damage of adolescence.” 
Kirkus Reviews

“Engaging, funny and sharply-written. I loved how [Grow Up] manages to be both brutally uncompromising and gloriously warm-hearted.”
Chris Killen, author of The Bird Room

“Ben Brooks is a magical imp who pumps out dark nuggets of poetry and makes you snort with laughter.”
Noel Fielding, co-creator of The Mighty Boosh

“Sickeningly good. So confident, so stylish. An unacceptably witty and original debut.”
Tim Key

“Liquid Gold.”
The Observer (U.K.)

“I thought [Grow Up] was amazing. One of the most hilarious and well observed accounts of teenage debauchery you are ever likely to read….Alarmingly good.  Jasper is great fun, naively perceptive, often LOL-funny company.  A totally convincing portrait of being a wayward teenager now . . . It’s so pertinent it actually kind of trips you out.”
Dazed & Confused

“Navigates the travails of school and beyond with a quick wit.”
Independent on Sunday (U.K.)

“A sharp and witty exploration of adolescent life…Grow Up is one part serious, the rest is simply laugh-out loud funny….{Brooks] is able to deal with issues such as self-harm and suicide with a tenderness and sensitivity that one would have thought beyond his years….contagiously funny, well-written and no doubt marks the start of a promising career for a talented young writer.”

The Scotsman (U.K.)

“Brilliantly captures 21st-century youth.  Hilarious.”
Times (U.K.)

“I couldn’t stop reading Grow Up.

“Funny from unexpected places.”

“A dirty, dirty book. It is a wonderfully filthy book.”

“A vicious, often hilarious—and hilariously blunt—microcosm of contemporary, ketamine-addicted British youth.” — blacklisted

“An undeniably fun read, thanks to the leanness of its prose and its sense of humour, which is as sharp as it is affected. This is Oscar Wilde with a Tumblr account, or Martin Amis remixed by Skrillex.”

About the Author

Ben Brooks is the author of Fences, An Island of Fifty, and The Kasahara School of Nihilism. He has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. He was born in 1992 and lives in Gloucestershire, England.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books; Reprint edition (April 24, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9780143121091
  • ISBN-13: 978-0143121091
  • ASIN: 014312109X
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.7 x 7.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #658,359 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Grow Up was completely disarming. I went into it not knowing what to expect. When I read the description of this book, I was kind of expecting a young adult thriller: a normal teenage boy dealing with normal teenage problems, except that he is living with a murderer. What I got instead was a twenty-first century homage to Catcher in the Rye and Harmony Korine/Larry Clark's Kids. I was captured from the first chapter, and it was very difficult to put down, just because I was interested in Mr Brooks' writing and in seeing where the protagonist, Jasper, was going to take us.

Grow Up is laden with drug use, sex, vulgar language, so it makes me question whether or not it is for young adults, or at least, tweens. Jasper is self-centered, sometimes kind, often cruel. His primary objective is to have sex with Georgia Treely, and if his path is lined with alcohol, drugs, and sex, he is not going to deny it. Some of the situtations are humorous, some are cringeworthy, some are tender.

If you're the type of person that prefers a linear story that has a plot, then Grow Up is not for you. There is no real conflict, or the rise and fall of a typical book. What you have here is a series of events in a teenager's life and what happens when he achieves the greatest goal he has set for himself. In that aspect, it is different. Because Mr Brooks was a teenager when he wrote this, it is a credible and vivid story that makes me fearful, and almost sad, for this generation.

However, this is an honest portrayal of our youth, more so emphasized by the young author. It's not sophisticated, nor is it meant to be. It is a simple story about a teenage boy and all of the thoughts that swirl around a teenage boys head. If you're expecting more than that, this is probably not for you.
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Format: Paperback
If you want a window into the world of contemporary suburban middle-class English teenage life, this is the book for you. It's narrated by Jasper, a seventeen-year-old boy with all the characteristics of many of his ilk: self-absorbed, sometimes thoughtful, sometimes charming, often irritating, generally scheming to avoid studying and on the lookout for maximum sex, drugs, booze, and good times with his friends. Although the book is sometimes quite winning and amusing, Jasper's narration can also veer unevenly between bursts of insight and unbelievable idiocy. One subplot involves his belief that his mother's live-in boyfriend murdered his ex-wife, and his pseudo investigation in an attempt to bring evidence to light. It just comes across as ridiculous that even someone as flighty as Jasper would wander as far down that road of self-delusion as he does. And that detracts from the general realism of the rest of the book, which is quite good at depicting bored teenagers killing time with drinks, bad TV, video games, sex, and the like. It's not salacious or sensationalistic in any sense, just matter of fact in a way that only a writer confident of their subject matter can pull off. (The author was a teenager when writing the book, hence the ring of authenticity). Still, despite the relatively strong portrayal of that milieu, I never found the misadventures of an annoying teenage guy all that compelling, especially as some of his treatment of other people (especially girls) is downright awful. I guess that's the reality of teenage guys, but it's not a reality I needed to spend more time with.
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Format: Paperback
I had mixed feelings about this book at first. The author has a keen if twisted sense of humor, and some of the lines are laugh out loud funny. It's well-written, and it brilliantly captures the ME!ME!ME! attitude of a 20-something young man. (He even says repeatedly, "I am a very selfish and insensitive person.") But I was never able to immerse myself in the book; I found the protagonist impossible to like, and the story didn't seem to have a point. I kept putting it aside and going back to it, but overall I just couldn't make myself care what happened to any of these people. It's possible the story comes together at the end, but I'll never know. About half-way through, after reading a very graphic scene where the protagonist kills a cat, I deleted the book from my reader. Yes, I know, it's only a story and no real cat was harmed, but there's something disturbing about a writer who comes up with that kind of scene. I don't care to see any further into his mind.
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Format: Paperback
Grow Up is the sort of novel people refer to as "coming of age" because it's about teenagers about to graduate from high school (or finish A-levels, since they're British kids). It's also the sort of novel that gets very mixed reviews because the characters, particularly the main character, is equally charming and despicable. In other words, he's a teenager. Add to that the fact that the author is barely nineteen years old himself and has already written five novels (though he says this is his first "proper novel") and the book ends up being rather polarizing. Young readers adore his fresh and honest (and very engaging) storytelling, while professional reviewers say the book is vapid and filled with "sex and drugs and not much else," perhaps unwilling to give the author the benefit of the doubt that he has anything real to say.

I, for one, am torn. I really did enjoy this book. The characters say and do offensive things, but I didn't find myself offended. I had to really think about why that was. And I think in the end I believe that Ben Brooks was successful in creating precisely what he set out to: an unreliable narrator.

Jasper Wolf is a naif (in some ways like his idol, Holden Caulfield) in that he believes he is completely self aware and worldly but his own immaturity and bravado prevent him from accurately seeing the world around him. Ben Brooks has not created a world in which there are no consequences for Jasper's actions; he has created a world in which Jasper does not always see what those consequences will be, and one in which Jasper himself is not always the one who will have to pay for his own bad behaviour.
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