Our best friend was ash in a jar.
Blake, Kenny and Sim’s lives have been rocked with the loss of their best friend and the awesome foursome has unexpectedly been whittled down to three. Trying to understand and cope with their grief is proving difficult and so, in a bid to say their final goodbye, they decide upon one last act of friendship – to take Ross to Ross (in Scotland!). Ostrich Boys follows the journey of the three friends as they steal ashes, lose train tickets, hitchhike and camp outdoors, all for the sake of commemorating a friend.
As with most journey narratives, this story is far from points A and B and so much more about getting between the two. It is a coming of age story that forces the three friends to face up to their actions, react to adversity and explore their feelings, as reluctantly as teenage boys are to do! Gray expertly avoids clichés and patronising displays in his depiction of a shattered friendship group, choosing instead to offer a somewhat light-handed glimpse into each of the different characters and the different ways they cope with guilt and grief.
I studied this book as part of my MA course and one of the overseas students really did not understand the quintessentially British sense of humour that fuels these characters and drives the story. It’s dark in places, quirky and sarcastic but, for me, that was a major draw to the narrative. Gray manages to treat a serious and rather grave situation with a lightness of touch and a humour that cuts through the maudlin and makes Ostrich Boys a very entertaining read.
Asking how well do you know your friends and how well do you know yourself, Ostrich Boys is an engaging YA novel that, despite focussing more on the adventure rather than the emotion, still manages to deliver a touching tale of trials, tribulations and tributes.