This is one book that I can describe as having grown on me. I was not overwhelmed with it after the first couple of chapters and its subtle advance of plot and character snuck up as Jason, over the course of a year, learns and matures to develop as a person.
David Mitchell’s use of language is not particularly doused in imagery, but then, this is a first person pov of a thirteen year-old boy. We learn that he is a poet however, and while Mitchell does not overplay this aspect, Jason’s use of language in describing his episodes is a gradual increase of control over his world and we see it in his change of word use.
There are themes of change and themes of struggle, in Jason’s overcoming his stutter, in his facing the further demons of the bullies among his peers, in his understanding of the disintegration of his parents’ marriage, in his learning the complications of friendships and family. It is far too easy for an author to abuse the first person pov by allowing his narrator to explain his feelings to the reader. Mitchell is above that. We see the changes in Jason’s thoughts without his having to tell us how he feels. He surprises us in the same way he surprises himself. It is a brilliant method of indepth characterization that is a pleasure to read.
And, Mitchell does come through with some amazing phrasing as the story grows. I’ll leave off with this example, as Jason’s family is separating, leaving their home and moving on:
The echoey house asked its four corners but no answer rebounded back.
Our right to be here is weaker by the minute. (p. 192)