Title: How Hedley Hopkins Did a Dare, robbed a grave, made a new friend who might not have really been there at all, and while he was at it committed a terrible sin which everyone was doing even though he didn’t know it.
Author: Paul Jennings
Genre: Young Adult
Opening lines: “…They say there is something awful in the sand dunes …”
Blurb: Hedley Hopkins has a few problems: he is the new kid at school, straight off the boat from England in the 1950s. The only friends he has made are the kids at the Loony Bin especially bald headed, long armed Victor. But if he could just fulfil a dare and dig out the hideous skull hidden in a grave in the sand dunes, he could impress the bullies at school and become their friend. Full-moon murderers, an open grave, religious conversions and sexual awakening meld sometimes poignantly, sometimes hilariously in this riveting, stunningly original account of growing up in 1950s Australia.
My Thoughts: I needed an Australian male author to read for a challenge and I saw this wonderful title, remembered he wrote the ‘Around the Twist’ TV series that was a must watch Sunday night show for our family, and decided that this would be a very different read. And it is. I can SO relate coming out to Australia in my very early teens and speaking in a real plummy upper crust British accent and being mocked mercilessly when I first started school. My first task was to dump my accent and adopt the Aussie twang which didn’t quite go according to plan, but it knocked the edge of the really posh accent and got me to be very acceptable. I can fully relate to young Hedley going through this. Unlike Hedley I quickly found a support group of friends and settled in, so doing the whole dare thing did not apply.
HOW HEDLEY HOPKINS DID A DARE is a great adventure with a lot of very real scenarios like the dreaded father/son mother/daughter nights where sometimes it was the first time that kids heard the correct sexual facts and you could hardly bear to look at each other. Hedley is struggling to fit into the school community, struggling with puberty and the weird things that are happening to him and generally not having a very good time. There are lots of laughs as Hedley gets himself deeper and deeper into trouble and doesn’t know how to get out of it. To try and get accepted he asks to join the gang of the toughest boy at school – he is dared to climb into the grave on the beach and steal the skull. The whole skull thing is quite horrible but I can understand that kids reading the book would enjoy this gross aspect and it would thrill them no end. But Hedley does make friends – and he finds that friendship can take different forms and that life maybe isn’t as bad as he thought. A quick read, HOW HEDLEY HOPKINS DID A DARE covers many of the problems faced by young teens of today such as puberty, rejection, friendship, danger, humiliation, conflict and growing up.
Rating: B – Great. I really enjoyed reading it and is a book I will be recommending to all my friends.
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