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Bright Young Things - Scarlet Thomas
Bright Young Things - Scarlett Thomas
Member Name: ladyofcampfires
Bright Young Things - Scarlett Thomas
Advantages: Strong characters, unique plot..
Disadvantages: Abrupt ending, too much left unanswered, very little happens for the majority of the book.
Paul, Jamie, Bryn, Anne, Emily and Thea are six twenty-somethings living very different lives in the south of England. All, however, are fresh out university and in desperate need of a 'proper job'. When they come across an advertisement in a newspaper which simply reads 'Bright Young Things wanted for Big Project' they apply, mainly out of curiosity. All six are called up to Edinburgh for an interview, none of them expect to wake up on a small island somewhere with no idea how they got there and no way of getting home. Furthermore, the last thing they expect to find when they realise they've been kidnapped is a decent looking and sized house stocked to the brim with food, drink, medicine, wine, cigarettes and renewable energy. Who bought them here? More importantly, why? What was going to happen to them? Would they ever make it back to the 'real world'?
Bright Young Things sounded like an interesting and unusual story to me and, for 20p from the Kindle store, I was more than willing to give it a go. I have to say though I've been left quite disappointed by doing so.
The book starts by introducing us to these six main characters. What they're doing with their lives, their relationships, past experiences and how they came about applying for the Bright Young Things job. Despite each introduction to the characters being quite short, maybe three or so pages long, I felt Thomas did a good job at giving us enough information to allow us to get to know these individual characters early on. Whilst more is revealed about them at a later stage you already know who you do and don't like before the story has really began. Each introduction also links smoothly and realistically into the character coming across the advertisement and applying for it.
After we get our character introductions the book becomes much more fast paced, we're thrown straight into the six of them waking up on this island, already getting to know one another and coming up with theories about why they are there and who bought them there. Just as we get to the fast paced parts of this book it soon turns much slower with Bright Young Things quickly turning into a book of conversations from this point on. Nothing really happens for a long time and no questions are answered. It's just six young people discussing their favourite TV programs, films and games. Given this is set in September 1999, some of these cultural references already feel quite outdated to me and I really can't imagine this being of those books you could still read in twenty years' time.
The book keeps up like this for quite a while. There's a lengthy game of Truth or Dare which seems to go on forever but does allow us to further get to know these characters. This did start out really enjoyable but quickly turned quite boring and predictable. You're more than half way through before any real 'breakthrough' happens to answer any of the questions burning in your mind. Here the story brings in a faster pace again and little bits of information and partial answers are dripped through bit by bit over the course of the next few chapters. This is where probably the only twist and exciting part of the plot occurs and is quickly ripped away again by yet more meaningless conversations about the media.
The ending is frankly a huge disappointment. There doesn't seem to be any real conclusion and the story doesn't feel like it's drawing to a close at all. In fact, it almost feels as though Thomas stopped writing half way through her novel and just published it like that. We never find anything much out and the amount of unanswered questions you're left is quite frustrating and, on the whole, hugely unsatisfying.
Although I found the book became a little dull and boring in places I pressed on reading it as I really wanted to find out what happened in the end and I don't feel Bright Young Things delivered any satisfaction at all.
It does have some strong point though. The characters are developed in a realistic ways and I found myself developing soft spots for all of them, including the ones I originally didn't like very much at all. Despite there being three girls and three boys it didn't turn into some soppy love story which I greatly appreciated as I can't stand that genre.
The book also explored some interesting ideas. Despite being kidnapped against their will these six lived in an isolated world where they pretty much had everything they needed. They lived in peace; there was no war, famine or prejudice in their world. Was it really such a bad place to be? I also felt the story looked into how the media brain washes us. Despite being in this situation one of the biggest worries that kept popping up from just about all six of these characters was that there was no Coke, what if they would never drink Coke again? The six were more interested in discussing which games console was their favourite rather than working out a way to get home or even finding out where they were.
Had the book ended less abruptly with a conclusion and answers then this would have been a very interesting and enjoyable read which offered something unique. Unfortunately I it wasted its potential and just became a rather boring and incomplete feeling story.
Published - Canongate Books, 2012
Pages - 342
Price - £6.29 from Amazon (from £2.75 new and £3.04 used) Kindle Edition 20p
Summary: An interesting sounding book which doesn't live up to its potential.