Thursday, July 26, 2007

Where there's a will... by Matthew Beaumont

Adequate but not outstanding. Some parts were really funny but the story starts to sag in the middle.

Alvin Lee is a nice guy. He works as a "Learning Mentor" in a rough London school, helping the rejects and drop-outs to acquire "life skills" eg how to fill in a form or read a map. The kids are the bottom of the barrel, the ones you cross the street to avoid. Not intelligent enough to be successful criminals; these kids are on the verge of being kicked out of the education system altogether.

Anyway, Alvin loves his family but as he is so badly paid, lives perilously close to bankruptcy. Does that bother him? No! Not noble, kind-hearted Alvin! The kids are a bunch of losers, but hey Alvin can see the good in them, even if they are like feral dogs.

(Yes, about 50 pages in, I was getting really sick of "good" Alvin)

The kids are part of the Inclusive Learning Department (ILD), a dumping grounds for teenagers who would have been expelled in the old days. The teachers in the school refer to it as the I Love Delinquents section, but Alvin is not fazed by this. Afterall, he has had some success in turning around the "no-hopers" : his star delinquent Kelly Rowlands managed to get 7 GCSEs, proving that encouragement can overcome the attraction of petty crime.

So Alvin is distressed to hear that Kelly (instead of going to college) is working at a brothel thinly disguised as a massage parlour. Suddenly all his good work seems to be for naught. In a fit of righteousness, he goes to the massage parlour to try and talk her out of her new job.

Well, you can guess what happens next.

Alvin, despite his good intentions, lurches from one well-meaning misunderstanding to another. Till finally, he's lost his job and his family and his life is in ruins.....

It sounds more like a tragedy than a comedy but it does have some very funny bits - like the description of the teenagers that Alvin tries to help. However, I did get annoyed by "good guy" Alvin. Surely no one is that nice? My favourite character was Alvin's partner Karen; I really liked her no-nonsense attitude.

Unfortunately, I thought the book sagged in the middle. It started off really well, but then I started to lose interest and never really recovered. If I had to give it a grade, I would say C+. It did make me laugh, but some parts lacked that spark that makes you want to read on. Adequate but not outstanding.

No comments: