Teenage years are a confusing time for all involved. No one is quite sure how to lump you, for adults you can’t drink (legally), and you can’t vote (until the latter end of your teen years) and therefore you aren’t really an adult. For teenagers you don’t want to be seen as a kid anymore and so you rebel. You do everything you can to prove you’re just as much of an adult as anyone else. Add in a mixture of hormones and high expectations from on one side, your parents and family who expect you to get good grades and go to college and on the other your friends and classmates who expect you to be cool and fit in, all of which amount to a recipe for disaster.
This is of course a generalization, but I do so with purpose so bare with me.
I’ve made my opinions on the Casual Vacancy fairly well known, but I think perhaps I’ve judged it a little too harshly. In fact, if you look at the book from a similar perspective as a rebellious teenager you can understand why it’s a little awkward.
J.K.Rowling spent the better part of seventeen years working on seven books for young adults (which in this case actually translated according to Barnes and Nobles own age ranges to about 8-15). As such these books were not as mature as they otherwise would be were they written for an adult audience. Add to this the high expectations of fans coming off Harry Potter, and the desire to breakaway from the image she had cultivated for herself as a young adult author and what you have is a book that seems to be trying just a little too hard to prove how much of an adult it is. Gratuitous swearing and sex is nothing I’m against by any means, but if it fits. In the case of TCV however it was almost as if these things were there simply to be there, in an effort to prove its adultness by the very nature of its openness to sex and swearing. Like most teenagers however it proves it’s youth by the awkward fumbling’s of the sex scenes and an awkward discomfort for all involved.
The loathsome characters are of course in a breed all their own, and I can’t really explain that away anymore than to say there are many human beings who are despicable and loathsome so perhaps this makes them true to life. Whether or not an author should make the reader fall in love with an otherwise loathsome character is a debate for another day.