Life! Death! Prizes!

by Stephen May

The teenage narrator of this black comedy is in denial about his ability to care for his much younger brother Oscar, after the tragic death of their mother. As his account progresses we realise the grief-stricken Billy is becoming a more and more unreliable narrator - in danger of starring in his own 'trauma porn' tale, as in the real-life heartbreak magazines he reads. This is heart-wrenchingly sad at the same time as wonderfully hilarious.


But things are improving. Oscar doesn't seem to have threatened to eviscerate anyone recently. And he gets given a part in the Christmas production, a surreal take on the Nativity called The Grumpy Snowman. The basic plot is that a snowman, renowned for his misanthropic nature, is called upon to attend the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem. Despite the heat and his clear mobility issues, he travels there, whereupon he is overcome by joy at the sight of our little saviour and throws off his grumpiness for ever and ever amen. Mad isn't it? Oscar is a shepherd, a perfectly respectable cameo part. Millie, I notice, has been cast as the Christmas Pudding which, together with her parents' painful and messy imminent divorce, should ensure some severe anorexia earlier rather than later.


Catcher in the Rye by J D Salinger
A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers

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