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Inson, a former head of a London comprehensive, acknowledges the comments and suggestions of a dozen young people during the writing of what seems to be a first novel. It would be rash then to challenge the authenticity of this account of 15-year-old Jon's life at the bottom of the stack on a featureless city estate. It makes bleak reading - for Jon is caught up as both victim and villain in extortion rackets (he's in thrall for hundreds of pounds to Dean and his violent adult brother - something to do with drugs). He's hassled in and out of school by female classmates, always at odds with Authority for bunking off and constantly screamed at by his lonely harpy of a mum. Jon seems hopelessly trapped, so his escape route (for this is a positive story, despite everything) is a surprise. When he goes to hospital with an infected hand, cut while breaking into his own house to thieve from his mother, Jon is treated by nurse Steve. Not entirely credibly, Steve expends much patience and time with Jon, advising him not to bother with school (it's doing nothing for him). Why not drop in often enough to keep the law off your back, says Steve. Get yourself a job - which Jon does, thanks to a kindly cafe owner and Paul, who runs a one-man garage in need of a helper willing to learn. That's where we leave him, slowly inching himself out of the morass. The language of the dialogue is harsh: relentless sods, old cows, buggers, bleedin's, bloodys, gits, fuckin's and shites. The idiom is characterised by the equally relentless use of yer, 'e, bin, 'ope, tomorrer and the rest - except for teachers, inevitably, whose conventional speech sadly fails to connect with the hapless Jon. There are problems with the book, though you have to admire Inson's willingness to get into this hostile world full-on. Characters talk too much like each other, events are repetitious, one miserable day follows another. While that may be accurate as a reality, it's tough on a reader. There are too few interesting events, not enough light and shade - and that takes us close to tedium and confusion. Sharper editing would have helped. In fact, the author isn't too well-served by his publisher. It doesn't convice to print unascribed comments on the back cover such as 'Some really good writing' or 'Reminds me of the way teenagers talk'. And it's a bit too easy to try to ingratiate a book with young readers by playing a card like, 'Peter Inson... failed English literature at school'. This unusual book deserves better than that since, for all its unevenness, Dunno is a more credible account than most of how things are in a stratum of Britain it's more comfortable to ignore. The core of the book is an ambitious and compassionate fictional case study of Jon. It's a tricky area and the reader may find the voices of the sophisticated author and the painfully inarticulate Jon sit awkwardly alongside each other at times. For Inson brings his adult insights to bear on Jon's struggle in a world he cannot understand - 'Dunno' is not only his stock means of avoiding endless questions, it's genuinely how he feels.