Can I even? YES I CAN. Without a doubt, Simon James Green's debut YA novel Noah Can't Even is one of the best books I have read this year; possibly one of my favourite YA books ever. The story follows down-on-his-luck Noah Grimes, as he navigates his way through a turbulent adolescence, filled with awkward mishaps, Wuthering Heights quotes and a very very VERY confusing kiss.
Five pages in and I found myself bursting out laughing, Green characterises Noah in the most brilliantly awkward yet totally endearing way. When faced with the possibility of a house party Noah asks himself "Would there be nibbles? Noah hoped so.", and deals with 'boy problems' atop some equipment in a PE lesson. Noah's hilarious innate Britishness is what makes the novel with his social ineptitude and it especially resonated with me as it felt like I was reading the diary of my fifteen year old self. I also shed a tear (out of pure hilarity) of how middle class Noah is with his requested food/drink choices ("What if she wanted Earl Grey or Darjeeling?"). It's clear Green was inspired by Sue Townsend's Diary of Adrian Mole, consciously or not, as the concept is pretty much identical but Noah still speaks with his own voice and his own identity.
For all its funny moments, the book does take time to explore the more tender, poignant issues that teenagers go through. Puberty, sexuality, masculinity are just some of the topics Green writes about through Noah and his school friends, all brilliantly articulated with an accessible, yet sensible voice. Green flawlessly weaves in the idea of embracing and exploring your sexuality, particularly through the character of Noah's Gran, but without hindering the tone of the novel. If only books like this were around when I was at school, I'm actually quite jealous of the youth of today!
The other characters in the book are fully rounded and crafted too, though this is Noah's story. His best friend Harry is charming, handsome and full of mystery; to see his and Noah's relationship go through so many ups and downs really pulls on your heart strings and you just want them to work through their problems. Even the characters that may seen unlikable at first end up conveying emotional turmoil at some point, such as the school bully or even Noah's parents, which emphasises the idea that everyone, everywhere has problems that are not just restricted to school; this crafts the novel in a warm, humane way that doesn't feel too forced.
Painfully funny in its portrayal of British teenage adolescence, Simon James Green is a shining new voice in YA literature, with his Noah Grimes being the new Adrian Mole for the millennial generation. Charming, funny and extremely poignant at times, Noah Can't Even is a fabulous book that should be picked up by everyone.
Published by Scholastic UK
Special thanks to Simon for sending me a copy! I really can't even.