Hooped, a novel by Surrey’s Michael Bains, is a compelling addition to the young adult/coming of age genre.
Hooped is Bains’ first published novel, and is a sincere narrative inspired by the author’s own teenage years as a young high school student growing up in Surrey, B.C.
The novel follows a protagonist named Jimmy, who is the archetypal jock who dates the perfect girl next door, and is envied by his peers for his cool, calm, and collected aura.
Bains paints the picture for the kid who has it all, but is still plagued with the hardships of being a teenager and the volatility of self-reflection, along with the relationships that are formed and strained during these difficult years.
One of the pivotal conflicts of the novel centers around drugs and the allure that teenagers, particularly young boys, can fall victim to.
Substance experimentation and abuse is a common topic discussed with high school students, but Bains also manages to show how the affiliation to youth in Surrey and the South Asian community as a whole is perceived by the public.
There are also glimmers of how alcoholism exists as an intergenerational issue in the South Asian community, and how it often trickles down from the emotional and mental confinements immigrants and older generations inadvertently carry and pass on to their children.
The lack of communication or dialogue between parents and children is often lacking in these family dynamics, as Bains’ protagonist Jimmy has a father working multiple jobs, and will take to drinking as an outlet of escape from the heavy minutiae of life.
In addition, Jimmy’s mother illustrates another issue in the community, through the way she brushes off her son’s behaviour to another case of “boys being boys”.
Throughout the novel, Bains prose is simplistic, but the accessibility in his language, and subtle allusions to the dynamic Jimmy has between his parents, elicit a very important conversation to be had among South Asian families.
The novel touches not only on the relations in a South Asian household, but also holds a universality in seeing the main character at an age where a parents presence may not be wanted but is needed.
For myself, there is also an instant comfort as a Surrey-Delta resident in reading the book, as Bains often alludes to well-known spots in the community. The dialogue and conversations he creates between Jimmy and his boys also transport me to my own time in high school.
I would not be surprised if this is a common sentiment for any reader who grew up or continues to live in the area to find themselves in the familiar consolation of Bains’ setting for the novel.
Turning through the pages, I was worried initially that I would not be able to break past the backdrop for the characters--an almost too familiar comfort was settling in as the image evocation Bains produced for his characters was being shrouded by my own memories of the locale; but worries were quelled by the earnestness of Jimmy.
What Bains manages to capture in 226 pages is a truly genuine account of being a teenager grappling with their final year of high school, and the formative steps of untethering from one’s adolescent self, with the unique struggles of a young boy from Surrey.
Hooped ardently explores the time in one’s life that suddenly becomes a balancing act where you claim to know it all and have a grip on yourself, but are also becoming increasingly cognizant of an inner dialogue that often feels like your enemy and not your friend.
The self-doubt, cockiness, insecurity and many other emotions experienced as a teenager are wonderfully captured in Hooped, and holds such wonderful potential for the Young-Adult crowd to find comfort in a character who appears to be feeling the same way as they do.
Or even for the now older individual who may need to step back and recollect on their former self and realize that inner dialogue that started creeping up as a teenager never quite goes away, and leaves you to figure out just how loud you’re willing to allow that voice to be.
Find out more about Bains' Hooped writing journey via the Instagram page @HoopedTalks
Reya Rana is a UBC grad who studied Poli Sci and English language. She is really interested in writing and reading rhetorical analyses, and she enjoys all kinds of music, fashion and books that make her cry. Her pronouns are she/her.