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Book review: <i>Fun and Games</i> by David Michael Slater

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the cover of the book

Fun and Games is like coming of age in a hall of mirrors. Welcome to everything weird.

The story

Meet the Schwartz family. Jon, the youngest child and only son, is pretty sure he's the only normal one of the lot. His father, a famous author, is trying to get away from his Jewish heritage and prove the idiocy of religious belief. His mother stands by the door spying on the neighbours. His oldest sister Nadia has an almost uncanny ability to know absolutely everything that happens even from the privacy of her bedroom, and he spends most of his time trying to ignore the fact that his sister Olivia is the wet dream of all of his friends. His grandparents are crazy, and his three best friends have families that are almost as bad as his.

The boys spend hours at each other's houses and as they grow through their awkward teenage phases. All the boys have their issues, and Jon is no exception. He's not sure of anything, and feels left out of his own weird family and distanced from the world around him. When all the boys except Cory head off to college, Jon's life doesn't get any less weird. Will the boys manage to get some level of control over their lives before they're dragged kicking and screaming into adulthood?

The style

Fun and Games is written in the first person from the point of view of Jon – teenager, brother of two older siblings, reluctant Jew. He doesn't understand the what the big deal is about religion, and what the problem is between his parents, and why his sisters act the way they do. Jon is a typical teenager. He's not overly conscious of the world around him, or how the world might make sense. But the writing is really very good. Jon's narration speaks volumes without Jon being aware of the fundamental truths being depicted. It's classy and meaningful, and there's no shying away from drama and over the top stuff happening to teach Jon a life lesson.

I loved this book. Sure, it's your classic coming-of-age, which has been done a lot, let's be honest. But Fun and Games is passionate and raw. It's a bit like a merry-go-round – it's a dizzy read where everything seems a bit too intense and hyper-real – but isn't that how life feels when you're a teenager? Jon, the main character, is a bit clueless and self obsessed, but also completely engaging and sincere. It was almost as though the author deliberately amped up reality so the reader felt as though they were bumbling blindly through their teenage years all over again. And, bonus, it's set in the eighties. I was raised in the eighties, so it gave me a beautiful twinge of nostalgia. But it certainly isn't exclusively for people who remember that time period. The themes are timelessly depicted.

Just to give you an indication of how much I liked Fun and Games, I can tell you that I was so engrossed by it I almost missed my train stop.

Who is this book for?

I think anyone could read this book, but I think it would be best suited to a readership in their early twenties who can relate deeply to the story (not the ACTUAL story, but Jon's growing up). It's easy to read and just so relate-able.

If you like this book, you would also like...

I like Nick Earle, Australian extraordinaire, for teen-right-of-passage writing with meaning. Seek him out.

In short

Title: Fun and Games
Author: David Michael Slater
Publisher: Library Tales Publishing
ISBN: 978-0615774152
Year published: 2013
Pages: 226
Genre(s): Fiction
Review Type: