Young Mungo's book cover

Young Mungo: The Smiths Coded novel

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Despite the burning feeling and the trickling of blood running down the side of his head, he runs through the blades of tall grass in desperation to the doocot. The earth pulls down on his leg. Regardless, he wades through his exhaustion to make sure what he hopes will not happen has not happened.

Young Mungo is a novel written by Douglas Stuart, published on April 22, 2022. The story takes place in Glasgow, Scotland during the 1980s, and follows Mungo Hamilton, the youngest of three children of a widowed alcoholic. Mungo’s family is nothing but disaster and poverty stricken. With their mom chronically absent due to alcohol, his sister, Jodee, has to step up to take care of him. On the other hand, Mungo’s older brother, Hamish, is a gang leader who finds enjoyment in fighting the Catholic boys from another town, beating them to near death. All of them – Jodee, Hamish, and Mo-maw, Mungo’s mom – want Mungo to grow up faster and man up, but unlike other boys, Mungo is gentle, kind, and overall a momma’s boy. Mungo’s world is a chaotic one, filled with people telling him what to do and who to be; that is until he meets this boy, James, at this lonely doocot. Bonding through their family troubles, their growing friendship liberates them from their lives under the dark, Glasgow umbrella, only to reveal the pelting reality that they live in. 

Told in third person, each chapter switches between the present and past to explain how Mungo got into his current predicament — camping in the middle of nowhere and not knowing if he is going to come back home alive or not — if there is still a home for him to come back to. This greatly contributed to the build up of suspense from the middle to end of the story. Additionally, the author dedicates chapters in the novel to other characters, giving the readers a better understanding of who they are.

Each character is written with such complexity that it demands the reader to sympathize with them. There is no one character a reader can hate right off the bat, and even if the reader did find dislike toward them at the beginning, there would be snippets of sentences throughout the novel that makes them think otherwise. The notes of language plucked from a heartful harp reminds the audience that the characters are only human, and if they were born in a different, more perfect world, they would not be who they currently are.
One detail that I liked about the book is when the characters mentioned The Smiths. Funnily enough, if I were to describe the book in one song by The Smiths, it would be “Please, Please, Please, Let Me Get What I Want.” In the past Mungo never asked for much, but now he has something he does not want to lose. Readers could only hope he gets what he wants – keeping this thing dear to him – as they traverse the pages in the book. Overall, Young Mungo was a relaxing read. I would recommend it to anyone that enjoys a good, sad story.

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