Publishing year: 2003
This novel is set in 1985.
The main character is Brian Jackson, an eighteen-year-old boy, who starts at university. Brian is quite clumsy, and has a knack for putting his foot in. Brian has only his mother, since his father died, and we know that when he was alive, they enjoyed watching “University Challenge”. I remember watching the programme when I was living in England. I really liked it, and I was awed by how difficult the questions were and how clever the contestants were.
Brian starts off his first week at university not very well. His flatmates are two boys called Josh and Marcus, and they have decided that his room should be the smallest in the house. Then they go to a party, and it is there that two things happen that will be important. There is a notice about joining the team to take part in University Challenge, and at the same time he meets a girl who seems interested in the contest and who he thinks is lovely. At the party he tries to know more about her, but he acts clumsily like a stalker or dancing while everybody else laughs at him.
The next day he goes to the meeting where he will have to prove he can be in the team for the challenge. There are only two more students apart from the leader Patrick; a Chinese student, Lucy, and Colin. Then the girl he had met the day before comes. Her name is Alice Harbinson. Alice sits behind him, and when they are given the papers with the questions, Alice passes him a paper, asking him for his help in some questions. He does help, and then they go for a drink. Alice is quite self-centred, I find, talking about herself all the time, and not asking a single question about Brian. Alice is quite well-off whereas Brian almost spends all the money he has left until the following cheque on the coffees and chips they have. Then when they return to see the results of the test, he realizes that Alice and the others are in the team, but his results are the lowest, so he is out. Alice still doesn’t consider his feeling and is excited even though she knows that she wouldn’t have been in the team if Brian hadn’t helped her with the questions.
I find the pace of the book a bit slow. I still don’t feel invested with the characters. There is humour, but I find Brian too clumsy for my taste; he even seems stupid at some point. So far I liked One Day and The Understudy better.