“Hooligans” by Chaz Fenwick

Most of You Shouldn’t Read This Book.

“Hooligans” is a modern version of West Side Story, a novel about a world most of us will never see. It is the youthful underside of every big city, where teens with no guidance spend their time seeking relief from the agony of the world they inhabit. Parents are nowhere to be seen except as peripheral irritations, antagonists, or sources of stolen cash. The days are a long blur of drugs, fights, and (for the lucky ones) sex.
Because this is set in Australia, the usual skin colour lines are blurred and the most important point of contention is what music one listens to. Which is a pretty good metaphor for most of the violence in the world, come to think of it. “I’ll bring the violence; you find me an excuse.”
So in this Lord of the Flies atmosphere the simple act of a “gangsta” girl going to a “metalhead” party and banging one of the metalhead guys leads to an escalating round of fights, rapes and bombings, culminating in a mass gang battle.
And that’s the story.
Somewhere in the mass of foul language, rampant hormones, mind-altering substances, violence and hatred there is a fairly complex plotline that carefully unravels the many characters and influences that lead to the outpouring of violence at the end. It all follows as naturally as sewer water down a drain.
Apropos of the title of this review, I do see a problem with selling the book. Due to the language, sex, and violence, I doubt that there are many people who are old enough to be allowed to read it but still immature enough to really become involved in it. Those who obviously should love it probably don’t read novels. Or anything. The rest of us can, however, be wowed by the writing.
The element I appreciated most was the language. It is impossible to judge the veracity of teenage sub-cultural slang; after all, by the time you get the book through the publishing process, half your terms will be already out of date. However, the dialect of the characters in this book walks the right line: strong enough to be distinctive, controlled enough to be understandable. After a while I was able to distinguish the different slang of the two different groups. Of course, the f-bomb predominates, but what’s changed in the last fifty years in that respect?
However, in discussing writing quality, I must remark on the overly intrusive dialogue tags (a hobbyhorse of mine, I admit).
‘Massive, we gotta get to this f**kin’ metalhead party bro,’ Dee said in his gangsta slang.
If we don’t know that’s gangsta slang, no amount of telling us is going to help, and those of us who figured it out already find our intelligence insulted. Never speak down to your readers.
And, be warned, there is more to come. This is a stand-alone story, true, but the “To Be Continued…” last page gives us the promise of an even wilder party.
Much though I admire the writing, I think that’s enough for me.
Recommended to anyone who dares. Four stars out of five.

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