Book #93

Bright Young Things by Scarlett Thomas

'Bright Young Things wanted for Big Project.' 
They're in the prime of their lives but our bright young things are all burnt out. Six sparky twenty-somethings just out of university and working dead-end jobs, they are all bored to tears with their lives and looking for a way out. When a mysterious job is advertised in the newspaper, they all apply. What they least expect is to find themselves prisoners on a deserted island. There's food in the fridge and they have a bedroom each, but there's no telephone, no television, and no way to escape.

This book really seemed to me like something that can just as easily be loved as it can be hated. It’s original, it’s odd, it’s risqué, and it completely and utterly lacks a genre. I’m in the love camp.

A job advertisement appears in the newspaper looking for Bright Young Things. In the opening chapters, we meet our six hopefuls and get to know their lives, before we see them travelling to the interview and waking up on an island together, with no idea how they got there. It becomes clear the interview is the catalyst, but why?

Very few things happen to drive the plot forward after this point. I’d usually be up in arms about this, but Thomas very cleverly keeps engagement high by exploring her characters. As they speak to each other, we learn of their greatest fears, their sexual conquests, their hopes. We learn that no one is really all that desperate to get home. We learn they’re all incredibly intelligent, but impossibly lonely. I loved each of them for who they were, and this seemed to mirror the building of friendship and trust within the group itself.

With the novel set in 1999 there were loads of glorious pop culture references I adored. Thomas states in the preface that she feels this will age the book, and I do agree, but reading some of these mentions of 90s nostalgia really sent me back to a better time in my life (aged 12, I may add).

Although Thomas gives us indeterminate reasons for the kidnap, it’s all incredibly vague and unresolved. I would have liked a bit more of a solid answer on why this happened, a bit of a glimpse into the mind of the kidnapper. I understand this wasn’t her intention, and probably the book is best left to the reader’s interpretation, but I am indeed very nosy.

I can understand why people didn’t like this, and I also completely get why people do. It’s a divisive style - no plot, no payoff - but there was something really gorgeous about meeting these people and being stuck on an island with them.