“I’ve kind of missed the old dog eats dog world of the dorm. And hell, there’s nothing like the Crazy Eight for sheer entertainment value.” – Spud, John van de Ruit.
Set in 1990 South Africa, Spud, the first book in the series of four follows the wild year of an unbelievably normal, borderline nerdy 14 year old who for some reason thinks like a madman. Written in the form a diary entry, Spud covers a vast arena of dramatics that one can expect from the diary entry of a 13/14 year old. Superior in academics, cricket (bowling) and blessed with a musical voice, Spud undertakes the school cricket team, the school play and spends Monday lunches discussing books with his English teacher.
John Milton (Spud) has the unfortunate (or fortunate?) luck of being eternally surrounded by crazy bats. His father (who wears camouflage and leaves house in war paint), his mother (who holds tea parties once Mr. Milton leaves house in war paint) and his grandmother (who is convinced that thieves are breaking into her house and leaving her money) make up for John's immediate family. John's dorm mates, collectively known as 'The crazy eight' includes Vern (temporarily the rain man) who pulls out chunks of his hair for the heck of it, Rambo (who swears a lot) and 5 other degrees of crazy.
The best part about this book is also its most obvious characteristic - its ability to make you laugh. And mind you, I don't mean quiet chuckle, I am talking about a proper 'from-the-belly' laugh, unless you have lost your sense of humor. The book isn't funny simply because of the antics of the crazy eight (although they are hilarious) but also because of the dismissive, oh-so-casual fashion in which they are presented. It is also devoid of cliche's and filled to the brim with originality.
Spud is fast paced with something or the other (most of the times, more than one thing) happening. It would take a good reader less than a week to finish it.The language is easy to read and understand and the content would be advisable for anyone older than 12 years old. A point of critique would be that Spud’s more immoral actions are often waved away claiming him to be just a confused 14 year old boy. The use of term ‘faggot’ and general use of ‘gay’ as a derogatory term, casual rape jokes and objectification of women is often and alarming.
But the good points are more than enough to look past the negative ones and read it, nonetheless. I know I am being pushy but do try and read this one - it's a personal favorite.