Summary

Download PDF Print Page Citation Share Link

Last Updated on January 12, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1032

Author: Craig Silvey (b. 1982)

First published: 2009

Type of work: Novel

Type of plot: Fiction

Time of plot: Summer 1965

Locale: Corrigan, Australia

Principal characters

Charles "Charlie" Bucktin, the novel's teenage protagonist

Jasper Jones , his acquaintance, a teenage boy who is blamed for most local...

(The entire section contains 1032 words.)

Unlock This Study Guide Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this Jasper Jones study guide. You'll get access to all of the Jasper Jones content, as well as access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

  • Summary
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial

Author: Craig Silvey (b. 1982)

First published: 2009

Type of work: Novel

Type of plot: Fiction

Time of plot: Summer 1965

Locale: Corrigan, Australia

Principal characters

Charles "Charlie" Bucktin, the novel's teenage protagonist

Jasper Jones, his acquaintance, a teenage boy who is blamed for most local problems

Laura Wishart, a troubled teen girl who is found dead

Jeffrey Lu, his neighbor and best friend

Eliza Wishart, his love interest, Laura's younger sister

The Story

Events that take place during Charlie Bucktin's thirteenth summer turn his life upside down. The novel begins when Jasper Jones, an older teen and an instigator of local trouble, knocks on Charlie's window in the middle of the night. Intrigued at the unexpected attention shown from this older boy, Charlie sneaks out his bedroom window and follows Jasper to a hidden grove on the edge of town. In that grove, the boys are confronted by a horrible sight: the lifeless, beaten body of a high school girl, Laura Wishart, which hangs from a rope. Jasper clearly has a relationship with this girl, but he does not know what has happened to her, and he is panicked that he will be blamed for what he perceives as her murder. To protect Jasper, the boys hide Laura's body. As the night ends, Charlie sneaks back into his room while Jasper disappears as quickly as he had appeared earlier in the evening. Courtesy of Ember

Charlie attempts to return to his normal life, but normal is not an option for him after his discovery and night with Jasper. Charlie is haunted by Laura's death as well as what he and Jasper have done, so almost everything he experiences is tainted by fear and confusion. He waits at his window every night, hoping to see Jasper and talk with him but Jasper is not as committed to communicating with Charlie as the younger boy would like.

Laura's death is not the only insidious event that Charlie experiences that summer. His home life is under attack. His mother, already a temperamental woman, is increasingly unhappy about her life, and she takes out her anger on Charlie. The Vietnam War is raging, and Charlie's best friend Jeffrey Lu is touched by the war when he loses family in his parents' home country of Vietnam as the result of a bombing. This horrible event seems faraway and does not immediately affect the boys, but later in the story community members turn against Jeffrey's family, and both of Jeffrey's parents are attacked in separate incidents. Charlie is also confronted with damaging family secrets including, his own, Jasper's and Eliza's.

Charlie's summer leads to a variety of firsts: his first taste of alcohol, his first cigarette, his first crush, and his first kiss. He also experiences many positive things during the summer. For example, he watches Jeffrey conquer the cricket field and he establishes a mature relationship with his father. He also witnesses his neighbors stand up for a member of their community, he falls in love with Eliza Wishart, and Jasper Jones becomes his friend. As the story ends, Charlie learns to look at life and the people around him differently, to be compassionate, and to rely on his own strength even when his world will never be the same again. Secrets are revealed, and Jasper Jones leaves town for good. That does not stop the townspeople from needlessly blaming Jasper for one last tragedy, but Charlie knows the truth, a burden he knows he will never be able to convince other people to believe.

Critical Evaluation

Jasper Jones was named a Michael L. Printz Honor Book in 2012. The award is given for a work of literary excellence in young adult literature. Jasper Jones's win is not surprising considering the number of difficult topics that Silvey confronts in the novel. Subjects as varied as the Vietnam War, racism, bigotry, incest, adultery, and police brutality are all encountered as Charlie teeters on the edge of adulthood. Other themes Silvey explores include family relationships, friendship, young romance, and perception versus reality. Silvey's skillful use of irony, especially regarding Laura's death and Charlie's subsequent relationship with Eliza, with its foreshadowing of his mother's infidelity, also provides a solid basis for literary depth and analysis.

There are a few humorous moments to lighten the dark tone of the novel. For example, Charlie's interaction with Jeffrey provides some comic relief when the two boys argue fiercely about topics like superheroes or tease each other with silly names. After Jeffrey's game-winning cricket performance, the two boys tease each other relentlessly about both Charlie's crush on Eliza and their ongoing argument about Superman. Jeffrey proclaims, "Lois Lane is more trouble than she's worth. How many times has she imperiled the world just by needing to be saved? Take one for the team, I say. Let her go." Jeffrey's almost constant optimism over cricket and his teasing of Charlie over "sassy-time" when he sees Charlie and Eliza kissing also add a sense of fun.

This book may be challenged by some parents for a variety of reasons. First, the young characters openly drink alcohol and smoke cigarettes without major repercussions. Almost every time Jasper appears in the novel, he is smoking, and he introduces Charlie to that habit. Jasper also offers Charlie his first alcoholic drink and gets him drunk for the first time. Charlie's parents allow their son to drink alcohol after he witnesses Jeffrey's father being attacked by angry community members. Silvey does introduce a humorous tone, however, when Charlie tastes Jasper's alcohol: "I gag immediately, wiping my lips, trying to keep my lungs at bay." The novel contains profane language as well. Finally, Laura's suicide could be a matter of concern, especially since she was molested and impregnated by her father.

Further Reading

  • Hunt, Jonathan. Review of Jasper Jones, by Craig Silvey. The Horn Book Magazine, 1 May 2017, pp. 104–5. Literary Reference Center Plus, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=lkh&AN=60126144&site=lrc-plus. Accessed 16 Nov. 2017.
  • Silvey, Craig. "Secrets and Lies." Interview by Rick Margolis. School Library Journal, vol. 57, no. 7, 2011, p. 15. Education Full Text, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=eft&AN=503007172&site=ehost-live. Accessed 1 Nov. 2017.
Illustration of PDF document

Download Jasper Jones Study Guide

Subscribe Now