The fame game

<strong>Are You With Me?</strong>

Stephen Foster <em>Simon & Schuster, 320pp, £11.99</em>

Tom Radford learns of Diana’s death on a family holiday. Six years later, his world is shattered by the death of his father, a speedway celebrity. Moving to East Anglia with his mother, the 15-year-old Londoner falls in with a local gang of miscreants, led by the charismatic wheeler-dealer Luke.

Although marketed as such, Are You With Me? is not entirely convincing as a coming-of-age tale. Foster’s small-town teenagers are unnaturally eloquent and pretentious – at one point, a teenage girl announces: “Social engineering . . . That’s multinational capitalism for you.” The early shifts in perspective create unnecessary distance between the reader and Tom, and the time frame is rather compressed.

However, as a meditation on fame and posterity, the novel is far more intriguing. Celebrities pop

up throughout, materialising like ghosts in unlikely places or presiding like gods over the mundane. The Diana references fit nicely into this framework, and also serve as a counterpoint to the less widely reported tragedy of the death of Tom’s father.

Foster’s colloquial, hallucinogenic style will not appeal to all. Nevertheless, this is a thoughtful novel that stands out in a world of identikit publishing.

This article first appeared in the 03 September 2007 issue of the New Statesman, Guns: Where are they all coming from?