Dylan Mint is 16. He has Tourette’s syndrome, characterised by involuntary movements and uncontrollable profanity. Dylan lives on good terms with his single parent mother. His father is away. Dylan understands that his Dad is in the military in Afghanistan. He writes him letters but never posts them because his mother says only spouses are allowed to write.
Dylan believes – without cause as far as the reader can see – that in addition to his Tourette’s symptoms he has a terminal illness which will end his life next March. So he compiles a list of things he wants to do before he dies. His first aim is to have sex with Michelle Maloy, a girl at his special needs school. His second is to recruit a prospective replacement for himself as best friend to Amir, a Pakistani boy at the same school. Dylan protects Amir from persistent racist bullying. His third aim is to get his father back from Afghanistan before he dies.
The novel now describes Dylan’s attempts to encompass these aims and explains what outcomes they lead to.
The strong point of Conaghan’s book is the character of Dylan. Sometimes intensely naïve, he is always a three-dimensional and utterly credible character. The first person narration (never a risk-free technique) here works excellently. Conaghan achieves another triumph. He depicts with great accuracy the inter-disability strife in a special school, always an immensely tricky matter to portray without prejudice or condescension.
Adult readers please note: this book is not suited for young readers who might be offended by profanity.