Jesse Flood (age 14) doesn’t know who he is but the one thing he is certain about is his feeling for Sophie Cameron aka Yellow Lilly. Through the course of one summer the story follows Jesse’s growing self-awareness as he reflects on the experiences that have impacted on his life to date; his sense of confusion when his mother abandons him; his relationship with his abusive drunken father and an uneasy friendship with the older but irresponsible Flynn.
Malachy Doyle has a distinctive and accomplished narrative voice. The opening chapter, in which Jesse tests himself by anticipating and experiencing the sensation of a passing train in a railway tunnel, is startling and totally gripping; the pacing is perfect, leaving the reader physically breathless. Doyle’s unusual use of a second-person narration positions the reader as witness to the event and heightens the sense of involvement. I was less convinced with the subplot of the search for a missing boy; though this can be seen as a counterpoint to Jesse’s move towards self-discovery it was, I thought, insufficiently developed.
In Who is Jesse Flood? Doyle creates a portrait of male youth which shows that masculinity and sensitivity are not antithetical.