What if all books had a black cover? Would you choose the same ones as you did now …?
I usually don’t pick up this kind of genre. So why buy? In this case it was the name of the writer. I read his poems, a chapter on his blog and because I’ve been supporting the guy for the past two years, wasn’t going to stop now. He’s been up to many things in different fields, this was something new. This is his first novel. The first of hopefully more to come because it’s darn good. Being a nominee for best Newcomer of 2014 at the Irish Book Awards proofs that, doesn’t it? It’s truely heartwarming to see all the positive responses on social media.
This is a little something I wrote being in Ireland for the book launch:
Sitting down in a pub in Dublin writing this blog while live Irish music is playing in the background. Perfect place to start writing about Kingdom Of Scars, a book by Eoin Macken which is set in … Howth, Ireland.
While being here, I want to visit the beautiful coast lines and towns like Bray, Dalkey, Howth, … simply by hopping on the DART. So it’s actually funny to see them all appear in the book. Hey, I might even have been sitting next to one of the characters, … who knows?!
I’ve read a lot of books, switching from genre to genre as the mood or things happening in my life took me. Not that many writers are able to capture me with the very first chapter, not wanting to put it down till early hours in the morning or almost missing my train stop when I’m reading it on the way to work and getting it stuck in my head all day till that revealing moment I can continue again. Eoin did. Actually, he already got me with the prologue. You’re not into the story yet then, but his way of writing pulls you in.
Also an easy read for a non-English person although I did have to look up quit a few adjetives. Actually, I had to look up ‘adjetive’.
Kingdom Of Scars starts with a group of boys chasing another boy and that well known provocative question, “Would you like to kiss my bird?” to which every answer you give is the wrong one.
Sam. 15. Experiencing life. Searching. Wanting to belong to his local gang, trying to avoid the bullies from school. Learning all about loyalty, violence, experiencing dating girls and seks for the first time. Taunting teachers, people who care. Then add some drinking, drugs and petty crime to it and let yourself expercience the mind of a selfdiscovering maturing teenager who just wants to be liked and survive the day without getting bruised too much.
Not a lot of writers can describe something as they visualise it without going into detail too much, without making it boring. JK Rowling has been one of my favourite writers because of that. And now I can add one more to that list. Eoin has the ability of making you see what he sees. You’re there. You can smell the cigarettes, feel the tension when Sam’s in a stressful situation. Yes, it even takes you back to experiencing the thoughts, nerves and clumsiness when getting that first kiss, that first sexual encounter. I sometimes couldn’t wait to get through a chapter and then put the book down for a few moments just to go back to my own memories before moving on.
Attending an all boys school, Sam still has a lot to learn about girls. As a female, reading about seeing his ‘angel’ for the first time, the thoughts racing through his mind, the doubts and clumsiness, his body reactions, are a real delight. If only I knew all those years ago I might have been more at ease knowing they’re just as uncertain as we are. Maybe … ha!
The gum adventure, the reasoning with his hands to stop sweating, the phone call, the raging hormones and a few more situations really cracked me up. But this one was one of my favourites: “Antoinette floated back into his thoughts and after letting her drift around unmolested for a while he pushed her back into the atmosphere to taint someone else’s desires.”.
As for the gangs, a few lessons learned. Does being a part of one, protect you from the other? The need of getting accepted causes Sam to make wrong decisions, act like someone else, hide his true feelings. Is the craving to fit in worth all the shame, the humiliation? Sam slowly learns to stand up for himself. Too bad it has to be by fighting violence with violence.
Reading about some embarrassing moments, there’s also that little bit of humor when you suddenly read ‘The grannies peered forward at him as if wondering they needed new glasses after all.’. While feeling all that sympathy for Sam, there’s also that bit of humor. Eoin does that a few times during the storyline. Fun to read how boys apparently – almost – enjoy the smell of their own steal sweat and old farts and girls’ giggles sound like music while boys make an uncouth sound ending with a fart.
And if all those emotions aren’t enough, you also get that bit of tenderness when you read about the banter between Sam and Don and Sam and his parents. He lies, he feels angry and annoyed at them but then regrets it as soon as he turns around. I’m sure it’ll feel heartwarming when parents read ‘as long as he was inside (his home), nothing could happen to him.’.
So Sam’s growing pains slowly shape him into manhood, learning what’s important and what’s not. Experiencing people aren’t always who they seem to be. Don’t try and be someone else because others want you to be just to get accepted.
Kingdom of Scars could be the story of that boy next door all those years ago …
A few notes:
Thought the rope story in chapter 10 was a bit too long and was suprised to see some supernatural in it, knowing how Eoin feels about it. It left me hanging a bit in some parts though …
I’m sure his name made more people pick up the book. Hey, I did too and as said I wouldn’t choose this kind of genre, but I really enjoyed reading it.
Hoping to read a review by a man next to all the female ones in the near future.
PS: I hope he continues to post more poems on his blog, as he mentionned on there.
PPS: also like the picture of him on the cover. Eoin chose one that was taken by Tim McDonnell while they were both in Africa as ambassadors for Sightsavers, a charity fighting blindness in developing countries.
Sam and I travelling through Ireland …