Sag Harbour by Colson Whitehead
Published by Harvill Secker £11.99
This is a very funny, semi-autobiographical novel by an author little known in this country. Set in 1985, Sag Harbor follows the various activities of a group of middle-class friends who only meet during their schools' summer holidays.
The narrator, Benji (desperately wishing to shed the childish name now that he has reached the age of 15), is well aware that he is different in most respects to everyone else - he doesn't fit in with his classmates, his summer holiday friends or even his own family. There are the various tensions emanating from the relationship between his parents, Benji's attempts to fit in both at his select prep school and in Sag Harbor, and the nascent discovery of the opposite sex. That Benji is all too aware of his shortcomings - braces, his awkwardness, lack of peer group social skills - adds to his often misguided efforts to overcome them.
Colson Whitehead is a very talented writer - I found myself laughing out loud and genuinely empathising with Benji while he tries to reconcile who he is within the world around him and find his own niche. This is a genuinely warm and tender novel, brilliantly written with much to recommend it.