Life! Death! Prizes! by Stephen May

Life! Death! Prizes!

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.

Extract

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.

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

Books with similar mood

A Mad and Wonderful Thing

Mark Mulholland

Sorting out Billy

Jo Brand

The A to Z of You and Me

James Hannah

Future Popes of Ireland

Darragh Martin

Temperance Town

John Williams

The Go-Away Bird

Warren Fitzgerald

Number One Chinese Restaurant

Lillian Li

The Brittle Star

Davina Langdale

Inishowen

Joseph O'Connor

Cold Light

Jenn Ashworth

You Don't Have to Say

Alan Beard

Ironopolis

Glen James Brown

Sabra Zoo

Mischa Hiller

Ukulele Jam

Alen Mešković

Black Shoes

Michael Obiora

Everland

Rebecca Hunt

If I Knew You Were Going to be This Beautiful I Never Would Have Let You Go

Judy Chicurel

Mailman

J Lennon

Winter's Bone

Daniel Woodrell

My Name is Leon

Kit De Waal

Two-Way Split

Allan Guthrie

Freshers

Kevin Sampson

The Prince of Wales

John Williams

Hooky Gear

Nick Barlay

The Cuckoo Boy

Grant Gillespie

Sky Blues

Vicki Hendricks

Stella Descending

Linn Ullmann

Voices

Arnaldur Indridason

Red at the Bone

Jacqueline Woodson

At HawthornTime

Melissa Harrison

Ours are the Streets

Sunjeev Sahota

Grow Up

Ben Brooks

The Association of Foreign Spouses

Marilyn Heward Mills

The Bonny Lad

Jonathan Tulloch

Dark Side of the Moon

Les Wood

The Lotus Eaters

Marianne Macdonald

Sweetness in the Belly

Camilla Gibb

Falling Sideways

Thomas E Kennedy

Bread and Chocolate

Philippa Gregory

The Round House

Louise Erdrich

The Incident

Kenneth Macleod

Both Ways Is the Only Way I Want It

Maile Meloy

Wrinkles

Paco Roca

The Fourth Queen

Debbie Taylor

The Dark Part of Me

Belinda Burns

Carry The One

Carol Anshaw

Shutterspeed

Erwin Mortier

Twilight Time

Simon Crump