Monday, 11 March 2013

Book review: Bright Young Things

I recently read Bright Young Things by Scarlett Thomas as I managed to download it for 20p for my Kindle. I hadn't read anything by Scarlett Thomas before, but I thought it was worth a try as it was so cheap and I liked the sound of the synopsis. The initial concept was very clever and I got engrossed in the book straight away. I won't give too much away, but the plot centres around six young people who respond to a vague job advert looking to recruit 'bright young things'. The characterisation is vivid and the reader really does get a feel for each of the six characters. A couple of the characters are likeable and some are extremely irritating. However, I secretly enjoy it when characters are irritating as it's a sign of good characterisation when they play on your emotions.

I would argue that the book is a critique of the rather pushy modern culture where everyone is encouraged to go to university and get a degree, regardless of the costs involved. None of the characters have jobs which are connected to their degrees, which is a very accurate reflection of my own generation and is most likely a deliberate dig by the author towards the current job market. The frustration of the characters in this area is evident, and a few of them are keen to move away from their degree discipline altogether. This is yet another symptom of the modern generation, where studying for a degree can actually put people off the subject they chose to study in the first place. The conversations between the characters are deliberately vacuous at times even though they're all 'intelligent' people with first class degrees. Therefore, in my opinion, the book was partly written to mock the modern degree culture and also to challenge the idea that people with degrees are automatically more clever than those without and have more stimulating debates and conversations.

The characters talk obsessively about TV programmes, celebrities, films and gaming. I think this is another reflection on modern society as these things are shoved down our throats and you can't escape from reality shows, TV soaps, celebrity culture and so on. These characters are all unhappy with their own lives, for very different reasons, and this is reflected in the way they cling to their various escape routes even when they're separated from them in the new ambiguous situation they find themselves in. I'm well aware that it's easy to get immersed in various escapisms when life is a bit rubbish (reading is my own personal escape route), and it's easier than ever to do that in modern society with all the technological resources available to us.

Some of the conversations in the book were dull, drawn out and bordering on the sublime, but I kept reading as I was intrigued about how things would turn out in the end and if the characters would come to a mutual solution. Consequently, I was massively disappointed by the book's finale. It genuinely felt as if the author wasn't sure how to end the book so decided not to put any effort into it at all and conveniently left it to the reader's imagination. I appreciate it when some aspects are left to my imagination and I don't ask to be spoon fed, but I also like to have a vague idea about what happens to the characters, especially after getting so involved with a book. I felt dissatisfied after finishing the book and almost felt as if the previous 341 pages had been a waste of my time. So, unfortunately, I wouldn't recommend this book as the ending is such a disappointment and doesn't build on the promising suspense built up earlier in the book.

Has anyone else read Bright Young Things? What did you think?

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