When your first novel has been successful, it adds pressure onto the second. This is the situation facing Joe Dunthorne, as his debut ''Submarine'' won several awards, was adapted into a film and came highly praised by The Bookbag. This means ''Wild Abandon'' has to be rather good to keep his reputation intact.
Kate and Albert are two teenagers growing up in a commune in Wales. Kate is becoming more and more unsatisfied with the restraints of this life, whilst Albert is devoted to Kate and eagerly anticipating the end of the world. In the meantime, life in the commune is falling apart as numbers dwindle and their main benefactor goes off the rails and ends up in hospital. Kate and Albert's parents aren't getting on too well, either and Kate can stand it no longer.
For a book based largely in a relatively confined setting, Dunthorne fits in the whole of human experience. There is strife; both marital and between siblings, love, hate, harmony and discord. There is drug fuelled paranoia, drug fuelled sex, physical injury, mental strain and even murder - albeit only of a goat. More or less anything that could happen does within these pages.
This makes it a surprisingly intense read, emotionally speaking. Some of the characters may not seem to physically do all that much, but they're frequently feeling something, often more than their actions would suggest. The book is written to be more emotionally descriptive than physically descriptive and whilst this can be uncomfortable at times, it is compelling.
After the hilarity of his previous book, ''Wild Abandon'' wasn't as laugh out loud funny as I was expecting. However, it's written in such a way that you frequently smile at their antics on the way through. There might not be any moments of hilarity, but the left-field lifestyle of many of the characters is enough to cause plenty of amusement.
The lifestyle is matched nicely by the writing style, which is a touch chaotic and, particularly when characters go off in different directions, jumps around a little. This not only keeps your interest, but keeps the pace high in what, in less skilled hands, could be a fairly mundane novel about a slightly unusual community.
If there is a drawback here it's that the life depicted here is so far out of many people's experience that it can be difficult to become fully involved. Although most of us will have experienced at least one of the situations the characters end up in, there was little common ground between this reader and character, which left me feeling slightly disconnected from it.
However, that didn't stop ''Wild Abandon'' from being an enjoyable read. My lack of involvement didn't hide this being an amusingly written and plotted story and it will appeal to anyone wanting a light-hearted read featuring characters and settings which offer something a little different. Dunthorne's writing and imagination are both good enough to suggest that he will have a bright future to match his so far bright past and present. However, with ''Wild Abandon'' currently only available for £5.64 from the Amazon Marketplace, it may be worth waiting a little into that bright future before purchasing.
This is a slightly amended version of a review previously published under my name at www.thebookbag.co.uk