Young John Milton (aka Spud) lives with his family in South Africa during the days before apartheid ends. He’s landed a scholarship to a prestigious boy’s boarding school and takes up residence in a house with a group of boys who become known as the Crazy Eight. Through his diary, Spud chronicles his adjustment to boarding school life and the challenges he faces fitting in, as he is one of the few boys his age (14) still waiting to develop.
Spud by John van de Ruit is lighthearted and funny even as it takes on serious topics that many boys will identify with. Spud knows he’s vulnerable because many of the other boys around him are bigger and stronger. He manages to find a middle ground that allows him to fit in enough to avoid most bullying without becoming a bully himself.
Other issues he’s working on include figuring out how to talk to girls and how to be a boyfriend; making friends, dealing with embarrassing parents, and experiencing loss. Tender moments, wise observations, and a bit of South African history and politics are sprinkled in amongst Spud’s escapades.
My daughter gave me her copy of this book and suggested I review it. She first picked it up thinking it would be similar to Roald Dahl’s hilarious memoir, Boy. While it was different from her expectations, she enjoyed it and recommends it. I believe Spud is especially appealing to boys aged 11 to 15, but girls should also enjoy reading about what boys this age are thinking.