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Asboville tells the story of JB, a sixteen year old verging on delinquency. After warnings about stone-throwing, keying cars (scratching a key on the car body work) , breaking windows and making children’s play parks a no go zone for the under 14s and the over 17s alike, he is caught vandalising property. He is served with an ASBO, his likeness is pasted up on posters all over his estate, and he is sent to live with his uncle in a quiet seaside town. His punishment is to work at painting the beach huts. At one hut each day, it will take JB the entire summer. However is-this what it is always going to be like for JB? Or is there a ray of hope?
The book opens on the estate where JB, Scooby, Carla and Dicko are kicking around. We also learn that ‘JB’S court case was just two days away. ’Already the book has started off with in a negative state. In addition his behaviour is like the other teenagers in this novel, he doesn’t think about consequences until it’s too late.
In chapter two JB is on the train, heading to Haycliffe. He’s missing his friends. There’s a moment where JB stares out of the window at the backs of houses and eventually sees a reflection of himself. He doesn’t like what he sees. ‘JB punched the window. A blast of pain shot up his arm.’ Furthermore he feels that they are making an example of him. ‘Stuck the ASBO on him. Made an example of him.’
JB takes a taxi to Lowes Field where his Uncle lives. He sees the town from the taxi and the driver complains about how the place has changed. Eventually they arrive at a broken down caravan park and JB is left there in the place that is to become his home. Even when he moves to the beach it seems broken and unfriendly, also the driver of the taxi feels sympathy for JB when he gives the driver ‘a tenner out of his pocket and handed it over… then gave JB a fiver back. “Looks like you need it,” he said.’ This shows that he knows what lies ahead for JB is going to be difficult. This further proves that this novel is pessimistic
In chapter seven JB is starting to make changes as JB is introduced to his new life of painting beach huts. There’s a brief flashback to an event in his childhood and then we’re back on the beach again. He challenges his uncle briefly and is defeated. Boredom sets in. This shows a slight change from vandalism to work that helps himself rebuild. ‘”its’ only a beach hut!” his uncle turned to face him “never `only`, jay. Not when it’s your living.”’ This shows that his Uncle is trying to teach him. This shows a ray of hope for JB.
In chapter eight it seems as that ray of hope is short lived as JB has joined up with a new gang. Our first meeting with Moey’s gang. JB hides from them as they kick a tin of paint over his newly painted huts. Later they return and make fun of him. They argue about tagging. A short look at life on the estate with nobody taking responsibility and then JB thinking of his friends as another day comes to an end, his mobile silent and lifeless.’ The gang of lads passed by the crack. One of them spotted the tin of paint on the trestle. The fattest took a run at it, kicked it into the air.’ JB’s life gets harder as this gang will make things difficult for JB.
After that on chapter eleven JB meets Sal for the first time. She asks his name. He tells her. She mentions the ships ’graveyard and then she’s gone. Sal becomes the mystery girl and therein lays the attraction. Sal tells us a little more about the ships ‘graveyard; how her friend Emma found it by accident; how her father doesn’t believe in its existence. ‘JB got a look at her now, curled brown hair hanging in front of her eyes, legs long and tanned. She was beautiful.’ This shows a great ray of hope as JB has made a new friend and has someone to talk to. However Sal has problems with her dad.
To add in chapter twelve JB finds the gang at the Lifeboat Memorial on carnival day. He meets Moey and the girls, including Moey’s girlfriend, Lisette, for the first time. Moey infiltrates the parade and causes trouble with one of the lifeboat men who forces the gang to disembark and disperse into the alleyways. They arrive at the harbour where Moey demonstrates his nerve by lighting a banger and holding it in his fingers until the very last second. JB does the same. It’s a test of his nerve, a challenge.
The noise from the bangers attracts the same man from the parade and once again he moves them on. Moey offers JB some cannabis. JB refuses to begin with but, in the end, he takes it on credit. After he’s left the gang he thinks about throwing the cannabis into the sea, but keeps it just in case. JB is being influenced by the gang, mostly Moey, to do bad things. ‘When it was JB’s turn he lit the banger and watched it burn while the gang watched him.’ This is supporting that this novel is pessimistic.
In chapter fifteen Sal visits JB at the beach huts. JB lies about his age. It’s clear that there’s a connection between them. This is giving a ray of hope for not only JB but Sal also as JB has something positive has happened to him.
Five chapters after that a new social worker arrives at the caravan park. His name is Tristan Bellows. He’s unsympathetic, the opposite of Swallow, and reminds JB of the rules he must follow.
Next in chapter 21 JB’s positive luck ends as JB and Sal have an argument. She tells him what people think of his uncle and why. A clue to his uncle’s past.
We learn that somebody made a hoax call to the lifeboat station on the night of the storm. JB is visited and questioned by the police. They discover the body of Sal’s father. JB stops Moey and his gang from torturing a kitten. Moey accuses him of making the hoax call. ‘” what like you? Making a hoax call and killing you girlfriend’s dad?”’ This supports the fact that this novel is pessimistic; however in chapter twenty six on his way back to the caravan, he’s confronted by some of the members of Moey’s gang. They accuse him of making the hoax call. He stands up to them. This shows there is a ray of hope for JB as he starts to make changes.
In addition he meets a smell boy on the beach and he made a new friends, someone who he can talk to and ‘He felt strangle relaxed with the boy’. This shows he has made a new friend and this novel may have a ray of hope.
In chapter thirty-four, after completing the final hut and silently delivering some lyrics to Sal, JB spots two police cars at the caravan and Moey’s gang on the beach. Forced to make a choice, he approaches Moey’s gang who are sitting around a camp fire and to follow (in chapter 35) the first real climax to the novel. JB and Moey face up to each other. JB wields a knife. Moey’s gang scatter. JB takes up a flame from the fire and sets the beach huts alight. This is pessimistic and good at the same time as JB has realised that Moey was doing wrong and tries to stop him however the way he tries to stop him is negative, with a knife.
Finally in the last two chapters JB sneaks back to the caravan then resolves to stay and face his punishment. JB’s decision is to stand and hold his ground. This is an important moment, for as we are well aware, there was a time when all he’d think of doing was running away. This is a major sign that JB has changed his ways and offers a ray of hope. And in the last chapter two months have passed. JB and his family have moved to a new house on the edge of the town. Sal calls from university. JB takes his phone to the beach where he lets Sal listen to the sound of the waves. They promise to see each other the following Christmas. This is where we know that JB has changed.
So far my argument has been biased going towards the pessimistic side of the book however there aren’t many up’s to the book. This novel was over all negative and JB faced hard challenges to overcome, however in the end there is a ray of hope for the characters as once JB had stopped running away from things, like the police and real life he got back on track. Over all Asboville is a negative book from the start but towards the end offers a ray of hope to its characters.