Books: Thirteen Ways to Be 13

With his remarkable fourth book, David Mitchell shows why he is Britain's brightest young novelist

"Blind boars of wind crashed through the nervy woods," reports Jason Taylor, frightened schoolboy, as he heads toward the darker reaches of the trees, and of his imagination, in a grisly English town in 1982. "Listening's reading," he notes elsewhere, "if you close your eyes." The sounds and tastes, the trembling feelings of his world course through the wide-awake boy like channeled spirits. Yet what makes the pungent spray of syllables heart-rending is the fact that Jason is a stammerer and has to avoid certain letters even when reading aloud in class.

In Black Swan Green (Random House; 294 pages), the most...

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