From the perspective of an Australian reader, I do understand the reasons as to why Me and Mr Booker received critical acclaim and vibrant reviews, not only from Australian critics but global reviewers as well. However, I found it to be one of the most ridiculous novels I have ever read. Claiming it to be a raw and powerful novel, set in a sort-of contemporary world that intends to emphasise the flawed human to its greatest capacity, may be overestimating this book a little. The novel follows the character, Martha, a sixteen-year-old high school student who lives with her mother. Martha is craving adventure and a sense of a life outside of the suffocating boundaries of her small country town. This is where Martha meets the likes of Mr Booker, with no first name, a thirty-four-year-old married man who moved to the country from London, England.
Martha had the capacity to be a wonderfully insightful character, instead, she was portrayed as a woman twice her age. She was lost, and the adults surrounding her, one could say, encouraged an underaged girl to have an affair with a married man. Martha was completely obsessed with the idea of Mr Booker and showed no real emotional maturity one expects from a coming of age novel. It was honestly all about the sex. Consequently, Me and Mr Booker was overrun by the frantic need for adulterous sex. Sex in a motel. Sex in Mr Booker’s bed. Sex in the car. The relationship between Martha and Mr Booker was utterly and completely physical. There were no emotional attachments; Martha was a pretty girl and Mr Booker, a predator.
That would be how I would characterise Mr Booker. A predator. He was first and foremost, a boring character who lacked any sort of personal conviction or strength. I was not interested in his character; his personality was bland and as dull as Martha described her little country town. His humour constantly missed the mark and one could not consider it ‘black humour’ in any form – it was the dialogue of a man who desperately wanted to be someone other than himself. He was not sexy in any capacity and I did not long for him and Martha to have their happy ever after. I’ll put it quite bluntly: I found Mr Booker as a character completely pathetic and disgusting. It was not a compelling read and it could be described as mediocre at best. It was paedophilia and statutory rape masked as a ‘coming of age’ novel. It was not raw, it was absolutely ridiculous.
I don’t quite understand the reason as to why a novel is considered and labelled as a ‘coming of age’ when all it is, is an older man preying on an underaged girl. Coming of age novels with female protagonists, and male, should not automatically mean that their maturity and development need to be linked alongside a romantic and physical relationship with a man. I was longing for this book to show us deeper emotional instabilities and the insecurities of growing up as a woman, as a daughter of a single mum, and a father who struggles with his mental illness. A novel that considers emotional and personal growth and not only sexual development. Although, I wouldn’t even consider it sexual development. It was a mess.
Thus, I would rate this book 2 stars out of 5, because it had words and the writing flowed. But the storyline was horrendous and the characters, even more so. I understand that this book was supposed to be one that shocked, and was meant to illustrate the sinful nature of men and women, but it just was not executed well enough at all. In saying that though, why would anyone want to write about a thirty-four-year-old man and his ‘relationship’ with a sixteen-year-old girl, and call it romance? Sexy? How? Please, I need to understand!
Forgive me for this rant, but this book was a trial to get through. Until next time, lovelies! Happy reading!