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Noughties is a "student novel" in that it revolves around a group of university students on their last night of school (in this case Oxford). It's meant to be a comment on the times (a fact that is mentioned on nearly every page), a "voice of a generation" (as the insufferable lead character on the TV show Girls might say) for the British young people finishing university at the beginning of this century. But it's a "student novel" in other ways as well.
Fans of competitive reality shows may recognize the common critique of "student work." Judges on fashion design shows like Project Runway frequently accuse aspiring designers who over complicate their garments with tricks and notions of producing "art student work." Cooking shows like Hell's Kitchen often feature contestants who are accused of being unable to "edit their dishes," an apparently common rookie mistake. The consensus seems to be that an exuberant youth is wont to needlessly over complicate a project in order to show off how clever they are, with the result being that they merely show off their inexperience. In this way, more than any other, Ben Masters' novel Noughties is a student novel.
Painfully overwritten, Noughties is a novel written without
the benefit of hindsight, a coming-of-age tale by someone who hasn't yet arrived, a narrative that pretends to represent the disaffected youth of the day while being so bogged down in its own minutiae that it's downright whiny in places. It annoyed me in ways that Ben Brooks' Grow Up did not, possibly because the main character of Elliot Lamb lacks the courage of his (supposedly disaffected and modern) convictions in a way that Brooks' character of Jasper does not.
Ben Masters is not without talent, but I'd be happy to wait for his fifth or sixth novel before reading him again.
Disclaimer: I received a digital galley of this book free from the publisher from NetGalley.com. I was not obliged to write a favourable review, or even any review at all. The opinions expressed are strictly my own.