Lucas by Kevin Brooks

I cannot recall the moment when I decided to read this novel. I guess I must have read a sentence or two on a blog somewhere which made me conclude that this was a sufficiently sordid, tragic and dramatic novel, consequently, I was going to like it. Well, I was wrong, so much so that I almost put the book aside after laboring through the first 50 pages – and let me add that I am not in the habit of leaving books unfinished. Even if I do not like a novel at all, I keep hoping that the end will make up for everything, this is why I read Lucas to the end, but it failed to live up even to my most meager expectations. However, while reading this story, I kept debating with myself whether I had the right to scorn a novel which is not particularly bad, and the only problem with it is that I am clearly not its ideal reader. This post is the result of this unanswered question, and while writing it I try to think of the novel both as an adult and as a teenage reader.

The story is told by sixteen-year-old Caitlin, and it is a recollection of the dramatic events of the past summer. Caitlin lives a quiet life on a small island with her father and brother but one day the mysterious Lucas appears. Lucas is very good-looking, he is not afraid of anything and even the way he walks shows how fearless and confident he is. However, no-one knows where he comes from and what he wants. Cait is inexplicably attached to the boy (sometimes it is even spelled as Boy) from the very first moment, while the rest of the islanders are just as inexplicably repelled by him, and a couple of teenagers and adults go to great lengths to denigrate Lucas and expel him from the island.

I guess it is not necessary to go into more details to give you a sense of what this novel is about: besides other things, it deals with topics such as xenophobia, the fear of the Other, standing up for our beliefs and growing up. Naturally, these topics are of great importance, and in fact, the author managed to depict and fictionalize some of them quite nicely. The figure of Caitlin, for instance, is quite authentic as a relatively naive, thoughtful and moody teenage girl who does not want to join the company of the average disco-goers. And I also believe that people like the islanders, who shun the outside world and treat everyone from the outside suspiciously, can indeed readily make a scapegoat of a person such as Lucas. And I do not have anything to say against the style of the novel either, I think Brooks depicted the language usage and the way of thinking of a sixteen-year-old girl very well.

However, the fact that the novel is a huge collection of clichés and moralizing attracted my attention before long. The book displays all the elements necessary for a story which deals with the joint themes of sad-adolescence-and-human-monstrosity: there is a dead mother, a mildly alcoholic but nice father who could never forget the death of his wife, a lonely teenage girl, a mysterious boy, a sudden rush of emotions towards this mysterious boy, wicked and dangerous youngsters well-loathed by the heroine, suspicion and misunderstanding, courage and self-sacrifice.

Kevin Brooks did what he could with all these character types and motifs, however, this is not enough for me – or perhaps this is too much for me. At my age, there is no need for me to read rather childish commentaries about the wicked and cruel ways of man – I know about this already. Similarly, I do not find either the evil youngsters or the enigmatic Lucas too convincing: I am already grown out of the age when I find a character appealing and interesting just because he carries around a picture of his unknown mother, has a scar on his wrist and walks in a confident way – and apart from these, we really do not get to know anything about Lucas.

If I had read this novel at the age of sixteen, perhaps I might have been very much moved by it – given the fact that this is a truly sad story, and at a young age I needed obvious morals and black-and-white characters. But being as old as I am, this novel irritated me to a great extent and I could hardly wait to finally reach the end of it.