Synopsis: Juha is growing up in a suburb to Stockholm at the end of the 1970s and at the start of the 1980s. He is on the cusp of being cool. He manages to keep this up by stealing liquor from his parents and giving to his friends. Juha is determined to never again be a nothing.
My Thoughts: I didn’t end up finishing this book. Not because it wasn’t good (it is definitely a good book), but because it was to painful.
Juha whom we first met in En komikers uppväxt (A Comedian Growing Up) is now a teenager and still as desperate to fit in. This means that he steals and lies and ignores his friend Jenny. Juha’s insecurities and fears are made so incredibly real in this book that they made me physically sick and brought me close to tears and ultimately that isn’t really what I want from a book right now.
I am also a bit of a prude at times and Juha’s teenage boy fascination with sex got to me. I think in a way because he was disrespectful to himself as much as to the people he so desperately wanted to have sex with.
I think this is a very realistic portrayal of growing up in the ‘70s and ‘80s in Sweden (I can’t say for sure since I don’t remember much of the ‘80s and wasn’t around in the 70s ). But that makes the book that much harder to read. I can so easily picture Juha and his desire to be popular. To be someone. I can see Jenny’s self-loathing and want to tell her that she is worth something. That she is amazing. I want to thump their parents for being so self-involved and selfish that they don’t see how much their children are hurting.
In the end Gardell is an amazing writer but I just couldn’t handle this book right now. I spend far to much of my time with hormone crazy teenage boys* to read about one.
This is undoubtedly a book that is good to read WITH teenagers. It will lead to some very interesting and important discussions, but right now I can’t handle it.
*At one of the schools I teach at I have almost only boys who are slightly older than Juha is in this book. Whenever I read about what is going on in Juha’s head I see one of “my” boys admitting that he feels like shit. It hits a bit close to home right now.