I know this might piss some people off, but I'm just gonna put it out there: I think David Mitchell does Neil Gaiman better than Neil Gaiman.
I've long admired Mitchell's writing; Cloud Atlas blew me away, and The Bone Clocks cemented my love for his oddly weird novels. Slade House showed me how masterful this writer really is, the way he can get you so comfy-cozy with his totally relatable characters and then turn everything on its side so quickly you don't know which way is up and aren't sure you ever will again. Black Swan Green is rather less supernatural than those novels, more like The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet in that respect, but retains a supernatural feeling just as well as any of them. It's uncanny. And lord knows I'm not and never have been a thirteen-year-old English schoolboy, but for the span of this novel I absolutely was. Having a background of being bullied definitely helped, but Jason's voice is just so real and addictive that I can't imagine anybody not falling into it immediately.
Jason Taylor: poet, promising young student, stutterer, nearly friendless, younger child of a dissolving marriage. We live in Jason's footsteps for one full year of his life, and what a doozy of a year it is. Terminally uncool, Jason's one ardent wish is to simply sneak through life undetected. Getting noticed is never a good thing when you're a favorite target of bullies and sneered at by the popular kids. Jason's mind is a pretty fascinating place to live. Some of it is uncomfortably familiar (read: the psychology of being bullied) and some it totally out of this world. We are emotional putty in David Mitchell's hands. This is just another example of his mastery of fiction.
Buy it from my favorite bookstore!