When thirteen year old Charlie Bucktin is approached for help by the town’s “half-caste” bad boy, Jasper Jones, he unknowingly becomes involved in covering up the death of a local girl. Charlie believes that “Jasper Jones speaks the whole truth in a town of liars,” and Jasper says he did not murder Laura Wishart. With no mother and an alcoholic father who is rarely around, Jasper Jones has never had a real chance at a normal life. He will undoubtedly be accused of this crime because it is easy. For this reason, it is up to Charlie to find the courage and help Jasper solve this ghastly mystery before the town erupts. After ruling out their main suspect, Jasper and Charlie learn that Laura killed herself. Her own sister helplessly witnessed it, and reveals that Laura could not cope with a disturbing family secret.
Set in a small Australian mining town during the Vietnam War, much racial prejudice is apparent. Charlie is continually amazed by the bravery shown by Jasper and his Vietnamese friend, Jeffrey as they continually battle the town bigots and thugs. Told from Charlie’s point of view, the story follows a well-paced narrative structure. The many side characters and the less than perfect town’s people keep it interesting. Throughout the story there is the continual mounting anticipation about where Jasper is and what will happen next. Faith, sorrow, guilt, trust, forgiveness, love, truth, and courage are among the many issues addressed. In the end, Charlie realizes that courage is “not about being without it (fear.) Maybe it’s about how well you walk with the weight.” Jasper knew this all too well.
Silvey leaves the reader with an open ending. At the conclusion of the story, one can only imagine where Jasper Jones goes and if the location of Laura Wishart’s body will ever be revealed. The strong language is appropriate for the intended audience and makes the characters believable. The mature theme also includes some sexual content and the mention of an incestuous relationship. This mystery is difficult to put down.