Warning: Contains Spoilers!
‘The Dancing Jacks are with you.’
Aufwader’s Thoughts: Underneath the commentary on books as collector’s items (all that ‘second-hand kid’s book’ stuff is hilarious from an author who at the time was most recognised for out-of-print middle grade – we see you, Robin) this chapter is setting up for a big, bombastic set-piece of old. Now that Jezza’s cronies have eyeballed Dancing Jacks for real, there is no turning back from the doom (or, well, doooooom) already writ and recited. The stinger is that, this time around, we the readers are not looking forward to it.
Matt’s Thoughts: This chapter might be Jezza’s best rant yet, this time on that old marketing chestnut, Big Data, and all the paranoia that goes along with that. I would love to know the inspiration for these rants, because while there are many YA books that try to obliquely hint at big themes that young people should think about, I’ve never seen a book chuck in so many explicitly complex ideas as if it’s a Reddit thread, and then just leave readers to think about whether they agree with them.
Part of me suspects that Mr Jarvis starts each rant with a topic he might have some genuine concern over, writes it out, then ratchets it up to conspiracy-website levels, with a hint of YouTube comment section troll thrown in. Then he gets Jezza to say it in his voice and sees how it comes out.
What is somewhat fascinating is that somewhere later in the trilogy, someone refers to Jezza as a ‘Russell Brand clone’. This, while being an amusing insult, also raises a fascinating idea and a paradox. I’m not sure if Robin always had Russell Brand in mind when he created the character, but actually if you wanted someone who could walk right in and bring a character like Jezza to life, Mr Brand would pretty much just have to play himself and it would all work. The man even had a ranty YouTube series for several years!
However – and this is the paradox – given that Dancing Jax was written in 2010, when Brand was really only known for his comedy side, it’s far less likely that Jezza is a take-off of him. It seems instead to be more the case of real life imitating art!
That said, I do have fantasies that someone slips this book to Brand after a show, he reads it, gets enthusiastic about playing Jezza, pulls some strings, it becomes a Netflix series, and then it gets touted as the British answer to Stranger Things…