There’s something about the teen years that can make a young person feel restless, wanting something to do. That restlessness only seems be heightened when teens are together in groups. They may not start out looking for trouble, as the saying goes. But the combination of lack of maturity and the search for adventure can have disastrous consequences. So it’s little wonder we see this come up in crime fiction.
In Peter Robinson’s Gallows View, for instance, we are introduced to Trevor Sharp. Not much happens in the small Yorkshire town of Eastvale, where he lives, and as it is, he doesn’t fit in well with the others in his class at school. So it’s not surprising that he takes up with Mick Webster, who’s also somewhat of a misfit. You could argue that the two feed off each other, and before long, they embark on a series of ‘adventures’ that get them into real trouble. Detective Chief Inspector (DCI) Alan Banks has recently arrived in Eastvale, but he doesn’t have much time to get used to the place. Soon enough he’s faced with a set of burglaries, a voyeur, and a murder. As he looks into what’s happening in the town, he finds that Trevor might be an important source of information. The key will be to find out what Trevor knows, before things escalate even further.
Jean-Claude Izzo’s Total Chaos, the first of Izzo’s Marseilles trilogy, is the story of Fabio Montale. He and his friend Pierre ‘Ugo’ Ugolini and their friend Manu grew up on the streets of Marseilles. They had little direction, and they got into their share of trouble. Then, things got out of hand and a tragedy happened. That tragedy caused Montale to re-think the choices he’d made. He left town and later returned to join the police. Ugo got involved with the criminal world and ended up living out of the country. Manu remained in Marseilles, but was no less a part of the underworld. Then, Manu is murdered, and Ugo returns to avenge Manu’s death. When he, too, is killed, Montale feels an obligation to look into their deaths and find out what happened.
Much of Steph Avery’s Our Trespasses takes place in 1966 South East London. Mods and Rockers are the groups of the day, and there’s a lot of experimentation. The young people are restless, adventurous, and sometimes reckless. Teenagers Bridget ‘Bridie’ and Madeline ‘Midge’ Dolan are eager to be a part of it all. They love the music and fashion, and are attracted to what sounds like a very exciting lifestyle. One Friday, they wangle their mother’s permission to go to the Palais Royale to dance. The main condition is that their cousin Jimmy must take them and pick them up. Bridie and Midge don’t mind that; their cousin is ‘cool’ by their standards. Jimmy duly takes them to the Palais Royale, and all goes well at first. But the night turns tragic, and it will have consequences for both girls.
One plot line of Zoran Drvenkar’s noir novel You follows the lives of four teenage girls: Sunmi ‘Schnappi’ Mehlau, Ruth Wassermann, Isabell ‘Stink’ Kramer, and Vanessa ‘Nessi’ Altenburg. They’ve been close friends since primary school, and still spend a lot of their time together. They’re somewhat bored and restless, as many teens are, but they get some focus when they begin to be concerned about Taja, the fifth member of their tightly-knit group. No-one’s seen or heard from her in a week, and the others decide to find out if she’s all right. As they find out the truth, their lives intersect with the two other plot threads in the novel, and draw them all into a case of murder, drugs, and more.
Peter May’s Runaway follows the lives of Jack Mackay and some of his friends. It’s 1965, and there’s not much for the teens, as they see it, in Glasgow. They’re bored and ambitious, so they decide to run away to London to make it big as musicians. They make it to London, but things don’t work out as they’d hoped, and they’re soon caught up in much more than they’d planned. It all ends in murder. Fifty years later, the remaining band members make the trip again when one of them insists that the murder wasn’t committed by the person everyone assumed was guilty. This visit brings back a great deal, and we learn what really happened all those years earlier.
And then there’s Fiona Kidman’s This Mortal Boy. This is a fictional re-telling of the case of Albert Black, who was executed in New Zealand for murder in 1955. Black was an émigré from Ireland, who went to New Zealand to make a success of himself. The story follows his travels and shows the lives of the young people he spent time with. They’re somewhat bored and aimless, and some of them are in gangs. And that’s part of what sets the stage for the murder. Black’s trying to make good, but he faces challenges, including the fact that he’s a foreigner. As the story traces his experiences, we learn what led up to the murder for which he was executed.
Young people often do feel restless as they try to move from childhood to adulthood. That’s natural enough, as is the sense of boredom with everyday life. But sometimes that restlessness can lead to real tragedy.
*NOTE: The title of this post is a line from Bob Seger’s Night Moves.
13 thoughts on “We Were Just Young and Restless and Bored*”
Some great books mentioned Margot. I’m planning on finally reading Total Chaos later this month.
Oh, I highly recommend Total Chaos, Col. Actually the whole trilogy is very good (and it’s only three books…). I hope you’ll enjoy it, and thanks for the kind words.
Love the international flavour to your examples (you know how much I love the Marseilles trilogy). Alas, a topic I’m all too aware of with 2 teenagers in my house. At certain times they sound very sensible and mature, at other times… 😱😱
Thank you Marina Sofia. That’s the thing about teenage restlessness and what can happen as a result. It’s international, because teens seem to be everywhere! And I can only imagine what it must be like in your home. I raised a daughter – only one teen – and that had drama enough! 😨😱
I’m glad you included You – that was the one that jumped to mind as soon as I read your theme. I wish they’d translate more of his books! I also liked the teens in William Shaw’s Deadland – two boys who get their excitement from a bit of petty crime. But when they steal a man’s phone, they soon discover they’ve picked the wrong victim – soon they’re being hunted by both the police and their victim…
Oh, Deadland sounds great, FictionFan! I ought to read some Shaw *makes a note to self.* I agree with you, too about Drvenkar’s work. I’d like to read more of it, but my German is laughable even on my best days. Hopefully more of it will be translated! And I do think You really portrays the lives of bored, restless teens very effectively. Authentic, and without sensationalism, yet also very truthful.
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In Tana French’s most recent book, the standalone The Searcher, the main character encounters a young person running wild in the countryside, and finds out more about the local young people and what they are doing. And the book looks at rural economies, and how young people can be left with no future and no hope. It is a thoughtful book as well as a cracking page-turner.
I’ll admit I’ve not (yet) read that one, Moira, although I intend to. I really like Tana French’s work. It’s an interesting point, too, about rural economies. It reminds me of a student of mine who teaches in such an area. That student has told me there’s not a lot of hope for those young people unless they leave (and where would they go?). It’s a tough situation, actually.
The May and Our Trespasses both sound good. The book I’m eager to read now is The Rose Code but at the end of a very long line for it at the library.
I don’t remember being restless or bored as a teen, but I was involved with competitive swimming, so I was in the pool working out 6 days a week.
I think it’s really hard to be restless or bored if you have an interest like competitive swimming, Richard. That’s really fascinating! I think things like that tend to focus a person, and, as you say, they are time-consuming. So there’s not a lot of time for boredom.
I know just what you mean about waiting your turn at the library, Richard. I’ve had that happen, too. When you do get the chance to read The Rose Code, I’ll be interested in what you think of it. As for the May, I think it really is a fine novel. May is very skilled at evoking time, place and culture, and he tells a good story. Our Trespasses is a solid read, too, with a solid depiction of life in ’60s London.