John Stiles,
The Insolent Boy
(Insomnia, 2001)

Canadian author John Stiles debuts his first novel The Insolent Boy, a coming of age odyssey -- or, oddity.

Selwyn Davis is the adopted son of Reverend Hugh Davis and his wife Gwendolyn, known as Bee. They live in a rural village in Nova Scotia, and it looks as if Selwyn is destined to be different from the beginning. A rocky childhood gives way to rockier teenage years, although he manages to fall in love with a classmate, Charlene, who for a wonder loves him back. But when the relationship shatters abruptly, Selwyn is off across the country to Vancouver.

He stumbles into a job as a roadie for a rock band and eventually becomes lead singer. Selwyn's main trademark is his ability to scream like a terrified rabbit. The band tours Europe, and Selwyn has much more in store for him before he comes full circle and home again.

Stiles's novel is at once gritty and quirky. Selwyn isn't just a bad boy; he's a bad boy with a conscience and a keen sense of consequences. Yet he stumbles on, allowing himself to be shunted from one weird situation to the next. It's not so much that he is "bad" as much as he manages to get himself in the wrong place at the wrong time with unerring accuracy.

This isn't a book that you "enjoy," although it is quite funny in places. It is mostly a book that makes you think about action and consequences and the circular nature of our lives.

- Rambles
written by Donna Scanlon
published 27 September 2003

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