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Boxy an Star By Daren King

Jacket: Paperback
Publisher: Little Brown Uk; (March 2001)
Genre: Literary
ISBN: 0349111928

Comments about the author: Daren King was born in Harlow, Essex, England, in hospital. A fully grown adult, he has not been told off since he was six. He now lives in London, near Big Ben.

Daren has an English degree from Bath Spa University College. His debut novel, Boxy an Star, was shortlisted for the Guardian First Book Award and longlisted for the Booker Prize.

Review: Sex and drugs in book form, “Boxy an Star” is an attention-grabbing first novel by Daren King.

Bole and Star are a pair of teenage lovers, both hooked on drugs. They work for Boxy, a distributor for a drug cartel, who gives Bole and Star some drugs as a commission for delivering goods to his clients. Such a difficult situation is also described in Charlie Wilson's War but the topic is difference and decisions too.

Bole and Star are seriously into drugs. "Me an Star are always gonna do em,” says Bole. “We have ever done em ever since we was at little school same as you an we are even gonna be doin em when we are grown ups goin to work an doin clever stuff in a office with a suit on all pin strip an chalk is white. Doin em on the bog an on the bus an in the kitchen talkin to our wife getting her puttin the dinner on. Doin em crossin the road an crossin back again getting cross it is hard work bein a grown up. Doin em when we are doin it and doin em when we aint. Even Star doin em when she is havin a baby it pokin out her tummy getting a name."

Or, as Star puts it, “We study at the school of pills."

Which is why it's ironical that Star declares, "We don’t drink caffeine. It is a drug. It is bad."

In “Boxy an Star”, Daren King creates a hallucination-driven world where its self-serving characters continually seek new ways to satisfy themselves, physically and sexually. They experiment with a whole range of drugs – spangles, Es, ellis dee – without ever pausing to reflect on their actions or on the shallowness of their lives.

Narrated from Bole's perspective, “Boxy an Star” is told in a futuristic teenage patois created by Daren King. Note that Daren King's narrator is a junkie with a tendency to repeat himself. Bearing this in mind, it is to King's credit that he gives readers plenty of time to ease into his made-up language.

King works around the ineloquence of his characters, expressing their longings with an astonishing clarity. When Bole says, "I jus. I only jus wanna feel somethin", it's clear that it's something more than drugs that he craves.

To that end, he finds fulfillment in his relationship with Star, even though their mutual attraction rarely rises above a misguided teenage lust-love. “Boxy an Star” becomes an unusual ode to how love can survive against all odds, even in the midst of mind-altering drugs.

Still, there's something gimmicky about a novel in which its main characters do nothing but have sex and take drugs all day. It remains to be seen whether Daren King's subsequent works will fall into a similar mold, or if King will establish himself as an inventive new author with a refreshing – if offbeat – take on life.

— Reviewed by: Wenkai Tay


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