Jasper Jones, a 2009 novel by Fremantle-based writer Craig Silvey, has won and been shortlisted for several major awards. The University of Canberra selected the novel as its inaugural UC Book of the Year for 2013.
Protagonist Charlie Bucktin is a thirteen-year-old boy living in the fictitious rural town of Corrigan in Western Australia. On a summer evening in 1965, Charlie has an unexpected visit from sixteen-year-old Jasper Jones, an outcast in Corrigan due to his mixed White-Aboriginal heritage and rebellious lifestyle. Jasper begs for Charlie's help, and leads him to his private glade in the bush. Here Charlie is horrified to find the dead body of a young girl, Jasper's girlfriend Laura Wishart, battered and hanging from a tree. Jasper, aware that he is likely to be blamed for Laura's murder, convinces Charlie that they should hide the body, so they throw it into a nearby pond, weighted by a large rock.
A search for the missing girl is soon organised, focused on the idea that she may have run away. Jasper is interrogated roughly by the local police, but they soon release him. Meanwhile tension builds in the town, as parents fear more disappearances, and townspeople search for someone to blame.
Charlie spends his days with his best friend Jeffrey Lu, a Vietnamese boy who shares Charlie's love of intellectual banter, and deals stoically with the constant race-hate inflicted on him and his family. Jeffrey is passionate about cricket, but his attempts to join the Corrigan team are thwarted by the racism of the coach and other players. Eventually fortune goes his way, and he finds himself batting in a game against a rival town, watched by Charlie, who has befriended Eliza, Laura Wishart's younger sister. As Jeffrey wins the game on the last ball, Charlie and Eliza hold hands and share their first kiss.
Jasper believes that Laura's murderer is Mad Jack Lionel, a reclusive old man who is rumored to have done terrible things in the past. Jasper determines to confront Lionel, and together with Charlie, goes to his house. Lionel manages to defuse Jasper's aggression, and the truth comes out: Lionel is actually Jasper's grandfather, and when Jasper was a baby, Lionel had crashed his car while racing Jasper's mother to hospital, causing her death. The incident has left him broken, and ostracized by the townspeople.
Late one night, Eliza comes to Charlie's window. They go to Jasper's glade. Here Eliza tells Charlie what she knows of Laura's death: after a violent argument with her abusive father, Laura came looking for Jasper. Eliza followed her to the glade. Finding Jasper away, in despair Laura killed herself, and Eliza could not save her. Charlie then confesses that he and Jasper had thrown Laura's body into the pond.
The next day, Eliza, Jasper, and Charlie go their separate ways. Charlie senses that he’ll never see Jasper again—he’s going to leave Corrigan for good. When Charlie returns, he finds his mother packing to leave Corrigan, too. She’s told Wesley about her affair. Ruth never returns to Corrigan—she lives with her wealthy relatives, not speaking to either Wesley or Charlie. Wesley takes care of Charlie on his own, and finishes the novel he’s been working on. Charlie is the first to read it, and he finds it beautiful and brilliant.
At the end of the novel, Charlie performs a feat of “bravery” that impresses the schoolchildren of Corrigan. He sneaks onto Mad Jack’s property and steals peaches. To impress his peers even more, Charlie stages a “fight” with Jack, promising Jack that he’ll make up the favor by making Jack dinner soon. Charlie walks off of Mad Jack’s property, applauded and cheered by the schoolchildren. Even Warwick Trent acknowledges that Charlie has shown great bravery. Amused, Charlie thinks to himself that it took more bravery for him to pick up the peaches, which were crawling with bugs, than to sneak onto Jack’s property.
Suddenly, someone sees a plume of smoke in the distance. Charlie runs toward the smoke, and sees that Eliza’s house is on fire. Her parents are alive, though her father is in an oxygen mask, with burns on his body. Charlie realizes that it was Eliza who burned the house, and realizes that he’ll never fully understand her motives. He also recognizes that Jasper will be blamed for this act of arson, and forced to stay away from Corrigan for the rest of his life. This news saddens Charlie, but doesn’t worry him—he knows that Jasper is too clever to be caught by the police. Charlie walks towards Eliza, who continues to look calmly at the fire, and whispers “the perfect words” in her ear.
Charlie Bucktin: The 13 year old protagonist and narrator of the novel. He is intellectual rather than athletic. This makes him somewhat of an outsider in Corrigan, where sporting ability is highly valued. He aspires to become a writer, and reads notable books during the course of the novel, including Pudd'nhead Wilson and To Kill A Mockingbird. These books are the source of much of Charlie's inspiration and guidance. Atticus Finch from Mockingbird is a father figure whom Charlie looks up to for support when times get difficult in the struggle of Jasper's tangled web of homosexuality, " I kept looking at his strong, muscly calves."
Jasper Jones: Mixed Aboriginal and white, Jasper is an outcast. He is fourteen, but Charlie states that Jasper looks much older. He is the town's scapegoat, the first person to be blamed for any kind of trouble. Hence he has a bad reputation, and is blamed for crimes he does not commit. Jasper's alcoholic father is physically abusive, prompting Jasper to steal for food, as there is no money left in the house. Jasper's mother died when he was young, and Jasper tells Charlie he doesn't remember anything about her.
Eliza Wishart: Charlie's romantic interest. Eliza is described as intelligent and slightly resembling Audrey Hepburn. She is Laura's younger sister.
Laura Wishart: Eliza's older sister and Jasper's love interest. It is her death being investigated.
Jeffrey Lu: Charlie's best friend. He is a year younger than Charlie but has skipped a year in school because of his intellect. Because of his Vietnamese heritage, Jeffrey often experiences racial discrimination from the other cricketers despite his exceptional cricket abilities. Often makes sassy comments about Charlie's crush on Eliza.
Mad Jack Lionel: An elderly recluse scapegoated by the township. Kids regularly steal from his property to prove their bravery. Taking a peach from his tree is the highest achievement. Jasper blames him for Laura's murder after discovering the word "sorry" carved into a rusted car on his property. Lionel often calls out to Jasper, trying to get his attention. It turns out Jasper and Lionel are related.
Awards and nominations
- Indie Book of the Year Award, 2009: Overall Winner and Fiction Winner
- Western Australian Premier's Book Awards, 2009: Winner (joint) for Fiction
- Australian Book Industry Awards (ABIA), 2010: Book of the Year, and Literary Fiction of the Year
- Miles Franklin Literary Award, 2010: shortlisted
- Sydney Morning Herald 2010 Finalist Best Young Novelist 2010
- New South Wales Premier's Literary Award Christina Stead Prize for fiction, 2010: shortlisted
- Victorian Premier's Literary Awards Vance Palmer Prize for Fiction, 2010: shortlisted
- International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award, 2011: shortlisted
- Michael L. Printz Honor Award, 2012
The film rights for the novel were sold to producers Vincent Sheehan and David Jowsey. Screenwriter Shaun Grant and Silvey co-wrote the script. Director Rachel Perkins started filming in October 2015. The film stars Toni Collette (as Ruth Bucktin), Levi Miller (Charlie Bucktin), Aaron McGrath (Jasper Jones), Hugo Weaving (Mad Jack Lionel), Angourie Rice (Eliza Wishart), and Dan Wyllie (Wes Bucktin).
The novel has been adapted as a play by Kate Mulvany. In 2014, Barking Gecko Theatre Company premiered the stage adaptation of Jasper Jones in Perth. In early 2016, Belvoir St Theatre performed the play in Sydney. In mid 2016, Melbourne Theatre Company performed the play in Melbourne. The production was also performed in Brisbane from July - August 2018 by Queesnland Theatre - http://www.queenslandtheatre.com.au/Shows/18-Jasper-Jones#
- University of Canberra, UC Book of the Year, archive
- Indie Book Awards, Australian Independent Bookseller, archive..
- "Jasper Jones". Allen & Unwin. Retrieved 5 April 2017.
- "Australia's Mark Twain wins book of the year", Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC), archived..
- Australian Book Industry Awards, archived
- Winton, Silvey on Premier's book short list”, by William Yeoman, The West Australian, August 12, 2010, archived.
- Michael L. Printz Winners and Honor Books, Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA), a division of American Library Association (ALA)
- Jasper Jones by Craig Silvey, Allen & Unwin (Australia), archived
- Jasper Jones by Craig Silvey, Windmill Books (UK), archived
- Jasper Jones by Craig Silvey, Penguin Random House (US), archived
- ScreenDaily, archived 07 October 2015
- Screen NSW (the NSW government's key funding body for the NSW screen production industry), "Funding Approval Details", archived 07 October 2015
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- Shaun Grant, "From Snowtown to Jasper Jones, an insider's view of the art of adaptation", Sydney Morning Herald, published 4 December 2015, archived 7 December 2015
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- Hugo Weaving, Toni Collette join all-star cast of Jasper Jones, Sydney Morning Herald, Linda Morris, 18 October 2015, archived 24 October 2015
- "Jasper Jones: the stage adaptation of Craig Silvey's novel". Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC). 15 July 2014. Retrieved 30 August 2016.
- Blake, Jason (6 January 2016). "Jasper Jones review: Kate Mulvany's adaptation stands tall despite slight falter at end". Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 30 August 2016.
- Galloway, Paul (18 July 2016). "Kate Mulvany on Jasper Jones". Melbourne Theatre Company. Retrieved 30 August 2016.