by Nikesh Shukla
‘Coconut Unlimited’ follows the adventures of three hapless, hip-hop obsessed Asian boys in an all-white private school. It is the debut novel from London-based writer and performance poet Nikesh Shukla. Shortlisted for Costa First Novel Award 2010.
I picked this up in the library and actually read 3 pages of the first chapter while I was there. I liked what I had read, so that was my choice made. Unfortunately, the first chapter is not truly representative of the rest of the book…
In chapter one, we meet Amit, the narrator of this story. He’s getting married and has been reunited with his childhood friends at his stag do but then all of a sudden, we jump back in time to Amit’s time at school, trying to form a hip-hop band with the only other Asians in the school. Growing up in Harrow during the 90s, this isn’t as easy as it sounds and comes with it’s challenges (e.g. his mum wants to buys his jeans from C&A!)
Lacking in real detail and character description, this book kind of felt like a memoir, as if the author is taking a look back at his fond memories of his own teenage years in order to share them with his own friends and family – perhaps for a speech or reunion. I can’t help but feel this book wasn’t intended for me, or the public in general. It feels more like a memory that doesn’t really need to be widely shared and has a plot that can be completely retold in a matter of seconds.
“We’d taken up our positions on the benches between the school hall and a newly-installed outdoor basketball court. Being hip-hoppers, we were obliged to be obsessed with basketball. None of us had a ball.”
I didn’t hate this book, but as I couldn’t really relate to any of the plot, I struggled to enjoy it. That said, I can easily see this being put onto the screen – perhaps a Netflix TV series or lighthearted film. For the book, I think it would be better suited for an audience who have had similar experiences, and not me, a white girl who grew up listening to Westlife and B*Witched…
Overall rating: “Coconut Unlimited” is a short and sweet look back at the teenage years of three Asian boys. It’s not a hard read but for me it wasn’t all that interested either. I feel like it was intended for a much smaller audience and this story was lost on me. I enjoyed the first and last chapters, but the story in the middle gives this one 2 stars.