One of my most memorable reads of the year, and my first David Mitchell, is still dazzling me months later. (Black Swan Green is actually the name of Jason Taylor's suburb. ) He is disturbed, eloquent, sweet, bawdy in a 13-year-old kind of way, unintuitive and unable to be anyone but himself. That last part is the trouble: no one accepts a 13-year-old who is true to himself, so Jason gets beat up on a regular basis. He has a rough time of it--an unrelenting stammer, a highly developed intellect which does not usually work in his favor, and a vicious internal life--he names his alter egos the Unborn Twin, Hangman and Maggot. But his talent for language (I know, ironic) and the picaresque episodes with unexpected allies put him in the driver's seat for the bildungsroman which is 8th grade. He emerges victorious, to take the challenges of 9th grade on--whether he wants to or not.
This is a YA adult book that treats the YA reader as intelligent, thoughtful and curious. Just like most of the 8th graders I know. *****