Title: Man Down
Author: James Goodhand
Published: 3rd of March 2022 – Penguin
Format: Digital (eARC) – 391 pages
Hello Hello! How are you?
Today I am back on the blog to bring you a mini-review for Man Down by James Goodhand, currently on #UltimateBlogTour organised by Dave and the team over at @The_WriteReads.
I have to admit that this is not the type of book that I usually tend to read, but I decided to give it a go, and while I was a bit oblivious for 60% of it, I did end up liking it in the end. I suppose it just goes to prove that sometimes you have to push out of your comfort zone and you’d be surprised at what you can find and enjoy.
Thank you as usual to Dave for having me on the tour, it’s always a pleasure, and thank you to the author, the publisher and NetGalley for my copy of the book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.
Will Parks needs to man up.
A man stands. A man fights. A man bleeds.
These are the first lessons you learn in a town where girls are objects, words are weak and fists do the talking.
Will’s more at home in the classroom than the gym, and the most important woman in his life is his gran. So how can a boy who’s always backed away from a fight become the hero who saves the day?
Because a disaster is coming. One that Will can prevent. But only if he learns the most important lesson of all: sometimes to step up, you have to man down.
A searingly powerful exploration of toxic masculinity, perfect for fans of Juno Dawson or They Both Die at the End.
Trigger warnings: drug use, arson, violence, sex and attempted sex with a minor (on page and mentioned), attempted suicide (on page and flashbacks), homophobia, train crash.
Man Down by James Goodhand is a YA contemporary book that discusses growing up in a less than perfect town, insecurities, toxic masculinity, sexism and discovering your true self. As I just mentioned, this is not the kind of book I gravitate towards, but I wanted to give it a chance. While I don’t think I understood or enjoyed this book to its full potential because of my reading tastes, I do have to tell you that it is bloody well written and the end made me such a nervous wreck.
This book is set in Ebbswick, a back-water fairly deprived and poor town where Will is growing up. Will is our main character and I liked him from the first page because he is humble, honest, kind, caring and he isn’t all “Look at me, look at how manly I am”. That’s just not who he is. His brother, Danny, however, is totally “a man” with atrocious behaviour towards women and the majority of the time he thinks he is something special and wonderful where he just looks like a twit, pardon my French. I really don’t like characters like Danny’s, although I do have to admit that it was really well written. I can’t speak for all women reading this book, but all instances of toxic masculinity, be it from Danny, from Mick Touch, from Will’s father, and many more, just unnerved me and made me feel so ill-at-ease, so it was definitely written in a very realistic and almost scary way.
This is a more character-driven kind of book. Even though a lot of things happen over a long period of time, it doesn’t feel that long, and it doesn’t feel like that much happens just because there is such focus on Will, his character, his questions, his doubts, his growth. I liked reading about what goes through his head, but I also just wanted to hug him and tell him everything would be fine. He is a very loveable character and I definitely felt for him in his very hard moments.
I don’t want to spoil anyone, hence the short version of my review, but there was an instance in the book which kept repeating and which I did not understand until at least the 70% mark, and I have to say it was both weird and fascinating. I just wanted to know more. I would say there is a definite “supernatural” or “otherworldly” element to this story which I was really not expecting and which threw me a bit. I think it was really clever how the author wound this in with the book even though it did leave me confused for the majority of the story.
There is a kind of, if not oppressive, then very unnerving atmosphere throughout this book. We all know that something terrible is going to happen at the end, as proven by all the messages than Will gets through various other characters, and the bad things that do happen, but I did NOT expect that ending. For the last 20% of the book, I felt physically sick and so stressed because everything was coming to a head and it was chaos and I was just praying that Will and everyone else would be fine. The end is definitely what got the 4 stars from me because it was so well written and because of the reactions it got from me.
MY THOUGHTS AND RATING
Overall, I did end up enjoying this book even though it took me quite a while to get into, to understand, to “properly” enjoy because I was a bit sceptical of the supernatural element of the story and just didn’t understand it. I think that was the author’s aim though, because I tell you, once you do understand and once everything kicks off, it is a fire-blazing race to the finish which just left me open-mouthed.
It was so, so well written. I don’t expect such beautiful prose and transitions in YA contemporary anymore, my bad, because this just knocked my socks off. James Goodhand has such a way with words and even though for 70% of the book I was not sure about it and my feelings towards it, he kept me reading, I just couldn’t stop.
I loved Will so much and it was so lovely seeing him grow and not “man up” but instead become himself, evolve and become the good and kind person he was meant to be from the start. I totally see why this book is called “Man Down” and think it was a very good title choice. His character breaks down the barriers of what a man should be, of what people see men as, be it how they behave or what they think. I think the way toxic masculinity was approached was so clever and realistic. I also have to mention Will’s Nain and Alfie, who were also characters I enjoyed reading about.
I gave this book 4 stars and even though I had my doubts about it, I did end up enjoying it and that ending was just terrifying, amazing, awful, so well-written, and just WOW. I still can’t quite wrap my head around it, but I think it does give me hope.
If you love the unusual YA contemporaries that have a bit of something extra, interesting and loveable characters, discussions on toxic masculinity, sexism, homophobia, insecurities and finding oneself, and if you love poignant, sensitive and beautiful writing, then Man Down by James Goodhand is definitely the book for you.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR – JAMES GOODHAND
James lives in Surrey with his wife and newborn son.
He took up writing three years ago. A mechanic by day, much of his work has been written at an oil stained workbench whilst ignoring a queue of broken cars in need of his attention.
James is also a keen musician, regularly gigging as a rhythm & blues pianist.
James’ debut YA novel, Last Lesson, tackling teen mental illness and toxic masculinity, was published in spring 2020 by Penguin Random House Children’s.
That’s all for now, I hope you enjoyed reading this post, and will want to pick up this book!
See you soon, stay safe,