Lolito by Ben Brooks (Canongate Books, R206)
MOST young people in the 21st century live online.
Behind closed bedroom doors, they check their Facebook profiles, they read what other people are doing on Twitter, they post photographs on Instagram and they chat to people they don’t know in chat rooms.
It’s all about who’s doing what and where, who’s with who and who is in a relationship with whom.
They even date in cyber space.
Gone are the days of romantic dates by candlelight and getting to know someone before you sleep with them – it’s all about instant gratification (mostly in the sexual sense) online.
Lolito tells the story of 15-year-old Etgar Allison’s coming of age – with all the bells and whistles it entails, including sex, drugs and underage drinking.
Etgar spends most of his time in his room, with his dog Amundsen, watching videos on YouTube.
When Etgar finds out his girlfriend of two years, Alice, cheated on him with Aaron Mathews, a boy who “raped her with kisses”, his world falls apart.
After a failed attempt at confronting Aaron and with his parents on holiday, Etgar takes to drinking cider and his parents’ wine and whiskey while obsessing over Alice.
Throughout the book, Etgar dedicates several angry poems to Alice.
Don’t be surprised by poems like: “You are shit, idiot”.
He decides to venture into the dark world of online chat rooms where he meets Macy, an attractive and lonely mother of two.
Etgar, posing as a 30-something mortgage broker, and Macy quickly develop a sexual relationship in cyber space.
They agree to meet in London when the grubby internet sex fuels their curiosity to meet face-to-face.
Macy is the one to suggest they spend the weekend together at a hotel.
Little does she know Etgar is in fact half the age he pretends to be. How will she react?
Etgar’s tale reminds me of the diaries of other fictional teenagers like Adrian Mole (created by Sue Townsend) or Spud (written by John van de Ruit), detailing the experiences of an awkward and lonely teenage boy.
The book is the fifth novel written by 22-year-old Ben Brooks.
If you can look past the vulgar language and the explicit ramblings of a sexually active teenage boy, this one is for you.
Brooks does a good job of humourously and colourfully describing his unlikely protagonist’s life and you will probably end up praying for the future of the youth if they are anything like Etgar Allison. – Lali van Zuydam