THE PLOT: ‘Brighton Funk’ by Nofel Nawras is about a teenage boy in 70’s Brighton. 15-year-old Naz is used to getting into trouble. His avoids his abusive father by going out dancing with his mates and routinely bunks off school (though he secretly enjoys English classes with his favourite teacher). But when he meets Abigail, he falls in love. She’s beautiful, rich and intelligent – not the sort of girl who goes for a guy like him. As he loses himself in Abigail’s world, he realises he can’t cut all ties to his past as he must save his best friend and favourite teacher from destructive paths.
RATING: I’m sorry but it’s two and a half stars. I wanted to bump it up to three stars but, honestly, I struggled to finish it. Firstly, this book is pitched as young adult but I really think it’s more of a combination of literary fiction and autofiction. I felt the voice of the main character was very strong and the literary style flowed from this, but there was less escalating plot than most young adult books. Secondly, it was just too long and repetitive and I became desperate to move onto something else. It’s a real shame because I picked this up in an independent bookshop precisely because I hadn’t seen it on the ‘gram. Sadly, it just wasn’t the right book for me.
GOOD BITS: The voice of the main character is very strong and presents an interesting tone for the novel. I could really imagine the character and picture the early 70’s setting – the bleakness of a dilapidated seaside town. The tension between Naz and his father, and the little snippets of dialogue with his oppressed mother, subtly convey a complex and engaging family dynamic. The downfall of Naz’s mentor (his English teacher) was a welcome side-plot and helped to sustain my interest. The dynamic between Naz and his best friend Johnny is also very sweet and I like how the violence and desperation of working-class boys was a tragic theme.
NOT SO GOOD BITS: I wanted to strike through whole chapters in red pen. There are the bones of a good plot buried underneath but there was so much talk of Naz and Abigail’s relationship, and speculation on whether they’d love each other in the future, so it felt like very little was happening in the present-day storyline of the novel. I also felt Abigail was unbelievably rich. If Abigail had just been middle class, it would have been even more poignant that Naz looked up to her so much. It just felt like Abigail and her family were too perfect and became Naz’s saviours rather than him actually doing anything.
OVERALL: I’d recommend this book to lovers of ‘The Outsiders’ by S.E. Hinton, ‘The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole’ by Sue Townsend and, of course, ‘Brighton Rock’ by Graham Greene. This wasn’t really for me but I love to support smaller presses and lesser-known writers, so don’t hesitate to buy this if you think it suits your interests.