Just a warning upfront, I’m not going to be able to review Angry Young Man without discussing the ending, so if you want to avoid being spoiled, skip the paragraphs surrounded by || Spoiler ||.
Just like on the cover, there’s a storm brewing throughout this one that you can feel brewing below the surface. Through both the title and the blurb on the back, we know something ‘bad’ is going to happen, and as we get to know and like the two brothers more and more, we begin to dread just what that ‘bad’ thing might mean.
The book is narrated by Robert the older brother, and who is a pretty typical older brother. He loves Alexander, but teases and taunts him just as much as he supports him.
They both live with their mother, and neither of their two fathers is present in their lives, which is mostly how they like it.
Alexander, or Xan as he likes to be called, is something of an outcast. Socially distant, and with a number of personal quirks (he wears dark glasses so people can not see the man inside). Robert tends to use his jibes to try to get his brother more involved in life. Especially as their mother is beginning to struggle financially and he feels that as they are both out of school (although Robert attends college) Xan, should be doing more to contribute (and not just financially).
As is evidenced during a game of soccer they are both involved in, Xan is no stranger to the ‘red mist’ when his frustration at perceived injustices boils over.
When I started reading the book I was sure I was going to hate Robert, but his love for both his bother and his mother quickly becomes clear. His pride in his brothers successes are also matched by his own frustrations, when he feels his brother isn’t achieving all he can.
As I say there is a storm constantly brewing below the surface in this one, Xan is clearly moving towards some sort of tipping point, searching for something he’s finding difficult to find, he falls in with the wrong sort, simply because he thinks he has found acceptance and something to believe in. Underneath though, he knows he hasn’t.
Something has to give.
Robert has his own issues, the families money problems are weighing heavy on his shoulders, as ‘the man of the house’ he feels he should be doing more to sort them out. Especially about the debt collector who is beginning to take too close an interest in their home.
As the story nears the climax the tension is palpable, and I have to admit I found my self delaying picking the book back up to read the last 20 or so pages, dreading what was about to happen.
|| Spoiler ||
Throughout the book, we are led to believe that Xan, is the Angry Young Man of the title, and yes he is, but he’s not the only one, if pushed and the circumstances are right, Robert is also capable of being so.
And indeed, as it happens is.
All good so far. But the ending for me was a bit of a damp squib, the author pulls back at the last moment (the boys don’t quite go through with what they plan), and we are treated to a happy ending. Whilst it was great to see them both put the last of any sibling rivalry behind them and move forward in their lives, because they were both such likable characters. I really can’t help feeling cheated, and that a less happy ending would have been so much more powerful.
|| Spoiler ||
For the most part the writing is subtle and powerful, and had the potential to have a really lasting effect on the reader, unfortunately it doesn’t quite manage it
Angry Young Man is released by Simon and Schuster on 8th February 2011.
My copy of Angry Young Man was an e-galley provided by the publisher for review purposes.