Wednesday, September 13, 2017

[Review] The Agony of Bun O'Keefe by Heather Smith

Add to Goodreads
Publication (dd/mm/yyyy)05/09/2017
Publisher: Razorbill Canada
Pages: 224
Source: Netgalley
Genre: YA {Contemporary | Historical}

Violence | Sexual Content | Profanity

Book Tunes

My Rating
My thoughts

Warning: suicide, sexual abuse, parental abuse/neglect, swearing, fighting, racism, prostitution and homophobia. 

You know that euphoric, lovely feeling you get deep inside when you meet someone incredibly special, and you know that you will do anything to keep them in your life because life has suddenly been split into two, before and after? Meet Bun O'Keefe. If I could choose to bring a literary character to life so that we could be BFFs, she would be one of the top contenders - she's smart, witty, quirky, sweet and loving (to a fault), forgiving, adorable and incredibly, endearingly weird.

Bun has been brought up in one of the absolute worst environments ever, and it shows in her behaviour. She was just 5 years old when her father left, ever since then it's just been her and her obese mother who likes loves lives to shop (see: obsessive hoarder). Living in a dirty, dusty and cluttered home, random knick-knacks and junk form piles alongside the walls. When her mum tells her to "Go on! Get out!", she steps outside and soon finds "Busker Boy" on the street, who takes her in and out of the cold. He brings her home, where she meets many interesting twenty-somethings, and so begins a heartwarming slice-of-life story about finding where you truly belong in the world.

The Agony of Bun O'Keefe is set in 1980s Newfoundland, a province off the east coast of Canada. But you wouldn't really be able to tell because there isn't any description or cultural references. I was hesitant to even classify this book as historical fiction because it reads exactly like a contemporary for me. I feel like there was a missed opportunity there, but this didn't deter me, not when there was such an amazing cast of characters to fall in love with!

At the temporary accommodation, Busker Boy lives with an ex-Christian School-girl whose parents wanted her to be a nun, 'Big Eyes'; an aspiring cook with a heart of gold, 'Chef'; a drag queen by night, 'Cher', normal guy by day, 'Chris'. My heart! I love how warm, supportive and loving they are to each other. Each of them have their own story, their own reasons for coming to live at "six, yellow, blue". Getting to know each of them was such a delight! And their struggles were so palpable, I just wanted them to find true happiness. I adored them all and wish I could have spent even more time with them!

The Agony of Bun O'Keefe is written in first-person; the voice of Bun O'Keefe is distinct and unique. It is strange being thrown into the mind of an alien-girl who has undergone great childhood trauma and was deprived of a healthy upbringing: she is shamelessly blunt and socially inept, finding great difficulty at times to think before she says something inappropriate or insensitive. It is hard to say if she is on the autism-spectrum, or if it is social conditioning, having been stuck inside a house with only a negligent mother as company. Despite everything, she has an open mind and heart, and allows others in as no one ever let her in. She opens herself to love, to a new family. I loved that she maintained a strong spirit and rarely ever expressed a hateful thought, she was like a child, you know how blunt and black-and-white they are? I could go on and on, but I'll let you find out the rest for yourself. 

The writing itself is absolute gold. While the descriptions are lacking, which I already mentioned previously, I didn't feel like the story was missing out on much. We are invited into the brain of a teenage girl who has survived and escaped an unimaginable home life, her observations and somewhat primitive way of describing and reading others is cleverly written and an accurate representation of the effects of childhood trauma. Smith implores you to read on - this is the kind of book I could easily have finished in one sitting if I had had the time!

The Agony of Bun O'Keefe was more than anything I could have expected! I adored the characters and wanted them to find their own slice of happiness. Bun O'Keefe is an amazing protagonist whose strong will and delicate naiveté is endearing and incredibly sweet. Readers will cherish her profound observations on life, belonging and love, and the lessons she learns from living with Busker Boy and the rest of the crew. Most of all, she learns what family looks like. A truly memorable read!


First lines:

"She yelled, 'Go on! Get out!' So I did. It wasn't easy. The path to the door was filled in again. I tried to keep it clear. But it was like shoveling in a snowstorm. There was only so much I could pile up on either side before it started caving in again. Not that I left the house much.
"On the long way home I talked about space: how Venus is the hottest planet and footprints on the moon will never disappear 'cause there's no wind to blow them away. I talked out loud till I got out of breath, then I talked in my head instead. I said six, yellow, blue to the rhythm of my feet till the house came into view. (12%)
"He passed me a towel. It smelled like a rainbow. I know 'cause I climbed one once in a dream. (13%)
"'No, my darling, what I mean is, they think we're different, like strange alien beings.'
'And being different is enough to not like someone?'

'Sadly, yes.'

'If strange alien beings did exist, they might have something to teach us humans. But then we'd never know, would we? Not if people didn't bother to get to know them. Is that sad?' I asked 'cause I wasn't sure. But Chris didn't answer. I guess he was too speechless to say he was speechless. (22%)
"Being human was hard. (37%)
"And just like that the lost book feeling was gone. The missing pieces were filling in and I felt as whole as I'd ever been in my whole life, so I said good night, closed my eyes and waited for the spark to burst. (44%)
"He took the tin out of my hand and said, 'We're all damaged, in a way. But it's nothing that can't be fixed. You just have to kick out the dents from the inside.' (80%)

AUSTRALIA: A&RBooktopia | Fishpond

INTERNATIONAL: Amazon | Book Depository | Wordery

I have received this review copy in return for an honest review.

Related Posts with Thumbnails