Lolito by Ben Brooks
Lolito, as the title suggests, is about a teenage boy who engages in inappropriate relations with an older woman. Ben Brooks’ novel is told from the point of view of fifteen-year-old Etgar, a wimpy kid navigating life as a modern-day teenager while suffering from Scary World Syndrome. Etgar’s debilitating anxiety is inextricably linked to his dependence on social media and his rampant consumption of online material, from grotesque YouTube videos to Facebook updates. When he discovers that his girlfriend, Alice, has cheated on him, Etgar embarks on a week-long binge of liquor and pills and finds solace in Macy, an older woman he meets in an internet chat room.
Brooks acutely captures what it means to be a 21st-century youth. The seamless inclusion of Facebook statuses and online chats throughout the text captures the hybrid nature of a life lived partially online. Despite this, or perhaps because of it, the story remains quite superficial. Alice’s betrayal fails to draw empathy for Etgar’s plight and Macy’s characterisation as a beautiful and bored housewife is at times painfully clichéd. The novel soon becomes one-note and repetitive – an interesting idea stretched beyond its story’s natural limits. [Dima Alzayat]