Dan Tunstall’s Big and Clever… Reviewed.

In a gritty tale of adolescence, friendship, and football violence, Dan Tunstall’s Big and Clever is a truly refreshing example of Young Adult fiction.


The book, a debut from Tunstall as a new author back in 2009, is published by Five Leaves Press (Nottingham), and is priced at just £6.99 – making it even more worthwhile!


‘…Ten times better than the usual teenage crap. It’s about the lifestyle that wannabes like The Streets and Guy Ritchie can only dream about.’ – Bali Rai

To Tom, Letchford town is home. It is the place where he and Raks go fishing, and where he spends the weekends scoring goals for Thurston Dynamo (his local Sunday league football team), or spending time with girlfriend, Zoe. But Letchford, and Tom’s life, for that matter, are not all it’s cracked up to be…

Tom’s dad, ‘Hollywood Tony’, as the town once knew him, is a alcoholic that wastes his days away, and his mum died of Cancer when he was young. To top it off, since starting school at Parkway, he and best friend, Raks Patel, are bottom of the social ladder and spend most of their time searching for a seat among the riff-raff of species that take over the lunchroom everyday (Emos, ASBOs, popular girls – you name it and Parkway’s got it).

‘Everyone else was into music or gaming or clothes. I’m fifteen in just over a month, but seven weeks at this place and I feel like I’m five all over again.’ (p. 9)


So, when ‘ASBO boy’ Ryan befriends the pair and offers them a hand in climbing the rungs of the social hierarchy at school, Tom just can’t help himself. But at what cost?


Dan Tunstall’s Big and Clever is exactly that. Clever in his use of language and imagery, Tunstall refuses to shy away from the truth of football hooliganism and violence as it was once known. His novel is honest as he aims to depict reality in a way that his readers can really feel and relate to. The realism present in Big and Clever is what makes Dan Tunstall’s novels stand out in the world of Young Adult fiction. What Tunstall gives his adolescent readers is a realistic version of what their own lives would be, if they placed at the centre of his fictionalised plot. Big and Clever gives the young adult male an escapism that they can be interested in whilst still upholding a sense of truth throughout.

What I particularly like about Tunstall’s debut novel, though, is his refreshing use of language. Tunstall doesn’t flower his vocabulary with big, complex words and phrases to show off his ability as a writer. This would not suit the realism of his novel and, quite honestly, it is not necessary for him to do so in this text. Instead, Big and Clever is quick and fresh, appropriate to the scenes he is trying to convey. His use of swear words and the colloquial are necessary and give the book its violent edge, without being too far-fetched, and for me, coming from a working-class background in Northampton, it was refreshing to read a novel that represented a more realistic viewpoint of British society, as seen by so many of our young adults today.




Like this? Then you’ll really enjoy Dan Tunstall’s seaside resort text, Out of Towners.

[NOTE]: With massive thanks to Dan Tunstall for taking his time to speak with us about his career and time in the writing industry.

Thank you for reading.
(C) The Student Wordsmith and Sophie-Louise Hyde, 2013.