Lionel Asbo

State of England
Lionel Asbo: State of England. Knopf. Aug. 2012. c.256p. ISBN 9780307958082. $25.95. F
OrangeReviewStarAmis's latest novel is really two stories, a satirical take on the rise and fall of Lionel Abso, small-time criminal, and the coming-of-age story of Desmond "Des" Pepperdine. Back when he was still a Pepperdine, at the tender age of two, Lionel started living the thug life by bullying his older brothers. By the age of three, he had been cited by the cops for smashing car windows. Des is Lionel's nephew. He is gifted, the book-smart kid in a school famous for low standards, college-bound among the prison-bound. When Lionel's not in jail the two live in a high-rise housing estate in the London borough of Diston. In jail for starting a brawl at a wedding, Lionel wins the lottery, becomes a multimillionaire and starts living the celebrity life. Cue the hijinks.
VERDICT Despite the distractions of the Lionel's shenanigans (ridiculous, over the top, and, yes, funny) readers will be drawn to Des. He may be the straight man in the piece but he adds depth to the novel. It's a fun read all around, but fans of Junot Díaz's The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao and Paul Beatty's The White Boy Shuffle will want to look for this. [See Prepub Alert, 1/13/12.]
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