Over the years, it has become harder and harder for a book to completely absorb me – in a way that I forget time, chapters, analysis, characterization and everything that makes me so much of an English Major. Before reading Jobless, Clueless, Reckless I had just finished Papillon by Henri Charrier – a book with a vast framework of characters and places, gripping adventure and repeated escape. Yet, Charrier I could put down and start again while Jobless, Clueless, Reckless I finished within one night.
Suresh uses a style which, to me, was unique. Teenage narratives in first person are very common – what with everyone being the new John Green. The eloquent yet confused teenager is the new fad – the smart one who has an odd quirk or two. But Suresh’s style is refreshing in the way that Kavya is clearly very confused and definitely not so eloquent. The writing reads like something I would have written had I just started writing when I was sixteen, and that becomes so essential to its charm. All of Kavya’s characterization comes from style and subtext, and that’s what makes it gripping.
Kavya is distracted, young, not the happiest person in the world and in a rare case, she is not a teenager looking at the inevitability of her existence. Her central focus is a lot more grounded: how is she going to get through her exams, how is she going to be friends with someone, and how is she going to live with a dysfunctional family? And yet, even while she frets about these dilemmas, you can see that on some level, she is also struggling with the inevitability of her existence and whatever else the teenagers worry about at this age.
The largest detriment to the first person is almost always how easy it is to get carried away with the characters and insert yourself. Doesn’t happen, in this case. Another major flaw in first person is always the lack of characterisation other characters get – yet, Kavya’a monologue also gives us space to see every other friend she is contact with. Even better, the characterisation of her mother is visible before the mother comes on stage, despite the fact that Kavya mentions her only in bits before she comes on stage. Kavya’s friends – Lara, Indu, Niya and so on make up the all important teenage crowd and do they play the part well. The implicit back stabbing hits so close to home, it’s wonderful. Again, Kavya’s crush Kiran is extremely realistically depicted – he is worshipped from far, bantered with, the butterflies are there, and as with all teenage crushes, a part of him is revealed which shows he’s only human. A human made by a flawed society and one where everyone has as many problems as Kavya.
Kavya has as many quirks as any one, but they are given an edge which I didn’t very well foresee – she’s not a stamp collector or a book sniffer: she’s a Barbie doll drowner. Most of the things which everyone knows about Kavya as a person are quirks, and to her, it’s mortifying. Kavya is a character who is new to this world, and yet, someone I can relate to on a phenomenal level.
But more than the very teenage-icity of the book is the family. Obviously, Kavya and her friends are important, but the implied background is actually where the real story lies. Kavya’s mother, her absentee father, her ridiculous schooling system and everything in between is what makes Kavya just so Jobless, Clueless, Reckless. Again – this hits so close to home. When we are sixteen, our peers may be at forefront, but everything that causes us mental conflict comes from our families. Eventually, obviously, Kavya’s family become the plot of the book and the Reckless part of her life just helps her character arc.
But, while Jobless, Clueless, Reckless gives so essential a vibe of being sixteen, it also loses a few points because the book may not read like an eloquent and confused teenager, but it does read like a movie!teenager. The love interest, the friends and everything give it the feel of the insecure teenage girl in a chick flick. Despite the fact that Kavya is anything but, the plot does seem a little in that direction. On top of that, at certain points, whenever Kavya is being a little Reckless, the situation becomes just a little hard to believe. Perhaps the issue is that I come from Lucknow of the teenagers who laugh at the idea of having a chapter on reproduction while Kavya lives in Bangalore, yet one particular incident of recklessness (no spoilers!) just seems a little overdone.
Apart from that, Jobless, Clueless, Reckless is a very well written peek into a sixteen year old mind. I would read it again, but the book – for me, in particular – seems like something I would not pick up and flip through like I do my Harry Potters. Even so, it’s certainly worthwhile.