Fourteen year-old John Milton may share his name with a famous writer, but at his new boarding school in South Africa, he is given the nickname Spud. This novel is written in diary form, covering the confusion, fun times, girl troubles, and serious pondering of a teen boy. Spud and his insane housemates, with nicknames like Mad Dog, Fatty, Rambo and Grecko are known as the Crazy Eight. Boarding school life revolves around the excitement of nighttime swims, kitchen raids, porn-screenings, cricket games and the typical pastimes of teenage boys. Hilarity and chaos ensues, as can only be expected of boarding school life.
Van de Ruits story is not just all fun and games though. The setting is 1990s South Africa, when Nelson Mandela has just been released from jail and Apartheid is coming to an end. Spud writes of the impact that Madela has on him and on the other boys at school, showing the inspiration that Mandela offers to the black students at school. There is definitely controversy about Mandelas release, the boys in Durban debate politics in an African Affairs and Spuds father believes Mandela to be a communist.
Spuds family is a bit dysfunctional itself. Well, a bit is really an understatement. His parents are illegally selling homemade alcohol from their home. Actually, their maid, named Innocence is doing the selling; his parents are just taking a cut of the profits. His frighteningly batty grandmother, better known as Wombat, manages to ruin more than one family vacation. His mothers friend, Marge sets Spud up with her daughter, Debbie, and thats when Spuds first foray in the world of women begins.
The Mermaid, as Spud so affectionately calls her, is his first girlfriend. His first real love. He is dazzled by the sight of her and cannot believe that he is so lucky as to be in a relationship with his magnificent creature. When the Mermaid sinks into depression due to her parents divorce, and is shipped off to England, Spud encounters his first real test of commitment. He wins the lead in the school production, Oliver, which the school is putting on in conjunction with neighboring girls school. With so many girls suddenly thrust into his life, including the psychopathic Christine and the Julia Roberts look-a-like Amanda, Spud begins to learn the true meaning of love and the art of dealing with women. Spud and his best friend Gecko spend a great many hours making pro/con lists to determine the proper course of action with the ladies.
All in all, John van de Ruit is brilliant in his debut novel. Spuds thoughts leap from silly to profound with ease. Spud epitomizes what it means to be a teenage boy and represents the transformation from naivete to adult. His words are an honest rendition of the highs and lows of the teenage years that rival Catcher in the Rye in social significance.
This was fun. Not as good as everyone said, but it kept me gripped. Good fun and definitely recommended for boys.
Spud lives in South Africa, the year is 1990 (can anyone rememember how this is important((a guy named Nelson possibly))) and he is heading off to an all boys year round boarding school with new crazy new people, crazy new teachers, and a crazy new uniform.
There are some ups to living in this newl and radical teenaged all boys life. HE lives in a dorm with the boys the whole school calls "The Crazy Eight". They call them that for two reasons: they pull off meaningless stunts...and there are eight of them. And, the fact that he got into the school musical, "Oliver". AND he does have a new girlfriend!
Then there are the regular horrors of being a teenager like...your parents are absolutely insane. No they really are, your Dad wants to kill your grandmother, and if your grandmother doesn't stop "sharing" her yogurt story you just might do the job yourself. And then sometimes the Crazy Eight just happen to be the Crazy Seven because no one knows where Gecko is really.... And your girlfriend isn't feeling mentallyt stable because her parents got a divorce. AND the slut from the all girls boarding school is following you around!
So with the greatness of being a kid on the edge experiencing new things, and being a kid with of course the regular embaressments and annoyances, this can only mean one thing, hormonal war.