Coming Down Again by Joobin Bekhrad (Matador £8.99)
JOOBIN BEKHRAD’S debut novel provides a first-person insight into the life of many young teenagers living in the Iranian capital in recent times.
Yet protagonist Asha is not like the typical teenage boy who craves “fast cars, loads of cash and all the sex a randy 16-year-old could beg for.”
His desperate need to escape to London and become a rock and roll star dominates Asha’s life as he dreams his days away.
Inspired by his guitar Ghermezi — “Red” in Farsi — and the pretty girl upstairs, he’s driven to put Iran behind him and follow his enduring dream.
Yet since the hustling and bustling Tehran is the only city he’s ever known, Asha finds it incredibly hard to say goodbye to home.
This conflict is filtered through the all-embracing enthusiasm and knowledge that Asha has for Western music, which astounds his family — and the reader — in its depth and breadth.
In his indecision, Asha oscillates between being a lonesome and depressed lost boy one moment and a reckless lad experimenting with smoking cigarettes and illicit drinking the next.
The tension inside Asha’s head is heightened by the fact that, as he obsesses about an out-of-reach London, he describes in detail the environment he’s surrounded by. He is locked into dreams that span cultures.
Bekhrad effectively clambers into the adolescent Asha’s mind and successfully draws the reader towards his interior life.
As a teenage female, this probably wouldn’t be a novel I would instantly pick off the shelf.
But reading about the other side of teenage boys fascinates, especially when the focus is on future prospects and the next steps to take in life.
In this, the book’s unlike much of its Western counterparts which focus mainly on sex and drugs.
Asha’s faith in making his way into the world and trying to make sense of the here and now — and the out of reach — is an inspirational testimony to his courage and bravery.
Bekhrad is a master at exploring the difficulty teenagers have with making such life-changing choices.
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