From the moment Ben Chapman ('Hoodie' to the other Shady Boys) crashes out of school, determined never to return and, incidentally, seeking his revenge on the school's drug dealer by stealing and concealing his stash in his trousers on the way out, you know that this is a boy to whom caution and reticence are alien concepts.
Outwardly, he maintains that all he wants is a job, his own money and to follow his heart towards the girl of his dreams, Isabelle. But, underneath that concealing hoodie, Ben has a rich inner life, fed by dope, wine and the belief that he is someone special.
During his 'summer of love', we follow his attempts to engage with the real world with frustration and compassion. His adventures cause him to question today's competitive, consumer-based values, eventually challenging his perception of reality and prompting him to reflect upon who and what his purpose in life is before finding himself faced with the definitive test of resolve and bravery.
Hoodie provides the perfect antidote to alarmist reporting of youth issues by exploring the problems facing modern day Britain from the perspective of the disempowered, disaffected teenager.
I find it hard to articulate my thoughts for Hoodie because it is such a realistic portrayal of youths of today. Reviewing this story is like commenting on someone’s life choices, you can say all you want but would you have done so differently if you were in his shoes? Hoodie may not suit everyone’s tastes but it is a poignant story offering deep insights into the hardships that modern teenagers face.
Hoodie is essentially a coming of age story about a young man, Ben or better known as Hoodie and his misspent summer. Ben like most boys at the age of 15 turning 16 likes to hang out with his mates, have a few drinks and maybe smoke a little weed. He has just finished his GCSEs and thinks he is now ready to enter into a world filled with opportunities and achieve anything he sets his mind to, be it a job or a girl. Sadly the real world doesn’t work like that and he faces one disappointment after another as the story progresses.
To make matters worse, a divide is appearing among his mates now that everyone has different goals in their lives. One wants to continue with his education while another wants to continue their business in wheeling and dealing drugs. What can Ben do to keep the group together?
Ben is not a bad kid, he is smart and sensitive. He is just missing a figure to guide him in the right direction. Coming from a broken family and lacking a father figure means he had to grow up much quicker than he was ready for.
Hoodie is an interesting story that I find a lot of resonance with. The writing is spot on for describing emotions such as the loneliness inside, where you can be in a room full of people you care the most yet still feel so alienated.
I think it’s this frightening sense of vivid realness that put some people off this book. It is a book that deals with real life issues, and not a rose-tinted version of it. Everyday many people are going through the things described in this book. I think more adults should read this to get a better understanding of what is happening to their children.
There are some scenes that I feel are over the top, but I believe they are needed and suited the nature of the book. They offer a fitting finish to a story that I could not imagine ending any other way.
While reading this book, I can’t help but draw comparison to Kes or A Kestrel for a Knave. Both books deal with a young working class boy and the very real troubles that they face. I feel Hoodie is an updated version depicting what life is like in the early twenty first century. I hope this story will make its way into more young adults’ hands. Maybe one day the examination board will assign this book as one of the reading books for GCSE.
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