Book review

Noodle Head by Jonathan Kebbe (2005)

Marcus King. He's cool:

You couldn't miss me - tall, cool, red dreadlocks. Yeah, red! They call me Noodle Head. My dad's Jamaican - plays a mean sax; my mum's from the East End and has glorious red hair.

He's a free spirit, but about to become earthbound, and seriously noodle headed. He skips school once too often and is sent to Dovedale Hall. What's wrong with Dovedale? Nothing that a little blue pill or two can't fix:

'Listen, Doc, if that's Kalmasol, they've stuck me on it before and I really don't get on with it.'
'Relax, my friend. It's specially formulated to reduce stress and hyperactivity.'
'Actually, it's not, Doc. It was concocted years ago for something totally different. I know, because I checked it out on the web. I'm sorry, but that stuff gives me the shakes.'
'Take it for now, dear boy, and we'll discuss it in the morning.'
I was too whacked and strung out to resist. I juggled the pill in my hand and sipped it down.

And that's the last clear thought Marcus has for a while. The medication is not optional. The timetable is tough. The discipline is demanding. There isn't much of Marcus left over after the efforts of the day, but slowly he wins the trust of his 'coopmates', Ravi, Shelly and Archie. He persuades them to work together, as a team. Everyone needs support to get through a term at Dovedale.

And he might have done it... But something goes wrong, when Marcus is within hours of having his sentence reviewed. After that, well, you can't expect a free spirit like Marcus togrovel intotal surrender. He wants off the medication. He wants out of Dovedale. He wants to bring the whole system down.

The pink pills generally took about ten, fifteen minutes to work. Some boys said they didn't notice anything, but then they wouldn't have noticed if their brains had been surgically removed and replaced by pizza dough. With me it was worse some days than others. One day I'd get this harmless tingling all over, the next violent shakes and double vision. The cocktail of K-M and K-X also affected some worse than others. It made my brain stop-start, every thought interrupting itself like an out-of-tune piano - or taking a couple of seconds longer, like one of those dinosaurs whose noodle was located so far from its bum, it took it a couple of seconds to unscramble vital news, like, Uh, I think somebody's just taken a bit out of my tail.
I had to think of a way of not taking the stuff, but how are you supposed to think with a scrambled brain?

Want to know whether he does it? Want to know who's on his side, and who isn't? It's all in the book.

Brilliant read, and quick, because you won't be able to put it down. Highly recommended.

What can I read next?

What a great character Marcus King is. The right man for the job.

If you enjoy reality stories that take a long hard look at the 'establishment', and find it lacking, you might enjoy this one by Malachy Doyle:

Or this great story by Keith Gray:

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