Black Swan Green is divided into 13 chapters, each a month in the life of 13-year-old Jason Taylor, each revealing a bit more about the sweet torture that is life as a teenager. For Jason, that torture centers around a world of secrets and fear. Jason is a stammerer who fears revealing his speech impediment; he writes poetry under a pseudonym, afraid that his effeminate endeavor will be discovered, to the detriment of his already shaky social standing; he fears that his parents will find out that he's broken the Omega Seamaster watch that weathered World War II upon his grandfather's wrist; and Jason fears ever acting on the debilitating crush he has on the toughest girl in his class.
I sat on the empty bench to eat a slab of Jamaican Ginger Cake, then went out on the ice. Without other kids watching, I didn't fall once. Round and around in swoopy anticlockwise loops I looped, a stone on the end of a string. Overhanging trees tried to touch my head with their fingers. Rooks craw craw crawed, like old people who've forgotten why they've come upstairs.
David Mitchell's story-telling abilities are unparalleled and his characters fully realized, becoming like people you actually know, or used to. But it is in mining truth from the lessons of childhood that the novel derives its true power. Such truths are rarely vocalized in real life, and if they are, they are never illustrated as fully or as powerfully as in Black Swan Green.