Punahou Blues by Kirby Wright is a wonderfully witty novel, written with sentiment and humor and will undoubtedly make you flash back to your own school years.
It is set on the island of Oahu and narrated by the main character Jeffrey Gill. We follow Jeffrey through his grade school years and on to the end of his high school career, all the while sympathizing and rooting for this underdog that is seemingly Jeff, but is more realistically probably every one of us.
Wright touches on the subtleties of boyhood mischief and deals with adolescent angst in such a familiar way that you will be transported to your youth and honestly feel a kinship with the main character.
Along with painting a clear picture of boyhood, Wright also focuses on the setting, on growing up in Hawaii and its culture. The main character is only part Hawaiian and the real discrimination that exists in the islands is clearly portrayed throughout the book.
Jeff goes through life as a good but normally mischievous boy. While he attends Star of the Sea School, he endures a colorful family life and the school troubles of all young boys. He faces even more challenges after he enrolls in Punahou, a private school. He yearns for the girl of his dreams, gets into fights, and faces discrimination. But Jeff always sticks up for himself and the reader cheers him on as he pursues romance, challenges the bully, and just tries not to embarrass himself in general.
The dialogue is riddled with Hawaiian pidgin throughout. The interjection of Hawaiian language adds so much color to the novel. Don’t forget to refer to the super-helpful glossary at the back of the book if you are not familiar with the language…with this guide to help you, the entire book opens itself up in a welcoming way.
Punahou Blues is a great book and a very funny read. It is fun and light but full of heart and Jeff Gill is a genuine and well developed character that any reader will identify with, no matter where they grew up.
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