War Boy - Chris Chapman


War Boy
Kief Hillsbery
Picador, 2000

Hillsbery's novel War Boy opens with a declaration by its
narrator: "I'm Rad I'm deaf I don't talk I'm fourteen I'm telling the
story. And storytellers lie so why bother you ask." Rescued from
a scenario of deep family violence by twentysomething mentor
Jonnyboy, skateboarder Radboy travels to San Francisco and
makes several discoveries about his own life. He and Jonnyboy
meet up with Finn and Critter, a pair of 'kweer tweekerboyz', all
are variously punks and skins, with convictions and hearts of

Told in first-person from Radboy's point of view, the dialogue
uses abbreviations, slang, variations of language like
customised signing. There is a high degree of affection between
Radboy and his posse, but its never exploitative. Radboy takes
his own time and terms to figure out his emotions and eventually
find love.

Apart from Radboy's journey into himself, the narrative is fuelled
by a social activist scenario involving the bombing of a
tree-felling corporate, and the subsequent kidnapping which
goes wrong.

Since Radboy is deaf the sensations of touch and particularly
smell are important: the identifying characteristics of different
boys' sweat; the calming and memory-energising aromas of
home-cooked food; and the acrid stench of a burning fox
carcass. Communication flows in gestures, looks and actions.

Chris Chapman