Habitual teenage delinquent Wayne Banstead is expelled from yet another school for sticking up the tuck shop. He finds himself hauled off to Gafin School for Misdirected Boys: a ‘special school’ for ‘special children’. It plays host to the worst of the worst, the cream of teenage offending – thieves, bullies, arsonists and flashers.
The teachers should have their work cut out, but things aren’t quite what they seem at Gafin School. Far from rehabilitating the boys, the teachers seem intent on instructing them in how to get away with things…
Promising title + promising plot = awesome!
This was a fun book. I liked it so much I actually made time outside of my normal audiobook schedule to listen to it. Dave John is a decent reader, though his character voices tend to sound the same. His accent (affected or otherwise, no idea) fits the setting and characters perfectly, and it certainly helped make the story more real.
A school intent on teaching kids to be thieves is an unusual and interesting plot, but the focus is actually more on the characters. Banstead (or Banners, as the other boys call him) is a delinquent, true, but he’s likable and is pretty much what I’d consider a British teenage delinquent to be. Obviously since I’m neither British nor a delinquent (nor a teenager nor male, either), I’m basing my opinion on years of watching crime movies and reading other books featuring teenage delinquents (some of them even British ones). So as far as that goes, I’d consider School for Scumbags a smashing success.
Several times I had to stop myself laughing out loud as I didn’t want to scare the other bus passengers, but rest assured I dearly wanted to. It’s funny without being ridiculous and absurd, and overall the tone was pretty light considering the plotline. However, it does change a bit in the last third of the book; the transition from LOL to OMG! was a little jarring, and while I liked the end, I wished it had been introduced a little less jarringly.
This being a book about teenage delinquents, there are of course lots of swearing and references to sex and masturbation. That sort of thing doesn’t bother me, but for those of you who do care about that, er, stay away, I suppose. (It’s actually not as bad as it could have been.)
The thing I liked the most, actually, was that the book wasn’t a cover for a morality tale. Yes, the kids are criminals, and yes, they get into criminal enterprises, but they’re not bad kids and they learn that crime is a serious and dangerous venture. And if they want to continue being criminals? Well, that’s fine with me; I don’t need them to have big revelations or whatever, so long as they realize what they’re doing and think about it a bit. Besides, if no-one wanted to be a criminal I’d be left watching romantic comedies and animations about sparkly unicorns. Viva la Ocean’s 11 wannabes!
(And hey! It seems like someone’s even doing a movie of School for Scumbags! That’ll be fun to watch.)
Read: January 2009