rating: 5 of 5 stars
The capacity some human beings have for committing acts of violence stuns me. I just do not comprehend how someone can lose their head to the point where they are able to inflict pain and/or death on another person—especially pain which requires a direct act of violence in which the aggressor experiences physical contact with his or her victim. This all becomes exponentially more horrifying and incomprehensible when the crime involves children.
Somehow, all these feelings were pushed to the sidelines when I read Jonathan Trigell’s "Boy A". I did not forget how disgusting murder is, or how awful it is for the victim’s family. What changed was that I had empathy for the assailant, Boy A, and his situation.
The story centers around Jack Burridge, who has spent a large part of his young life in various forms of incarceration because of a murder he committed as a child. The law has since decided that he is rehabilitated, and subsequently, he has been granted release—he sheds his former name, along with his past and enters the world as Jack. The only connections to his past are his case worker, Terry and the panic button he wears in case he needs help from the law, which now protects his anonymity.
Trigell transitions back and forth throughout the book—taking the reader through Jack’s current life, to his unsure and lonely existence before he became Boy A, to his years in secure facilities and jail. In addition to this journey, Trigell shares glimpses into the lives of the people around Jack—the friendship between B and A before the murder; B incarcerated; Jack’s parents; Terry, etc. This movement allowed me to gain a wider perspective on the why and the how when it came to Jack’s human development and the choices he made. I found I pitied A, and wanted him to stand up for himself, but at the same understood why he was only a follower and never a leader.
I also found that I liked Jack. He is wide-eyed, scared, and hesitant, but this, along with his effort to build a life for himself as Jack makes him endearing. He is not completely alone because he has Terry, and Jack loves him as a son loves his father. I just wanted to hug Jack and see him succeed in this incredibly daunting endeavor. I even found that I could look beyond Jack’s past as Boy A and questioned whether or not he truly murdered Angela Milton.
My mind has been opened towards reasoning and understanding in a way that it has before. I tend towards the close-minded and often see things only in black and white; even more so when it comes to crimes of violence and brutality. Trigell has made the world gray for me. I still do not know if I believe in rehabilitation, and I feel absolute abhorrence for crimes committed by so-called innocents; but now I also see how a good child can make life-altering, life-ruining choices just because he or she is lonely and lost. In 2008, "Boy A" was voted in the UK as "the most discussion worthy novel by a living writer in the 'Spread the Word poll,'" and I must concur.
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