BOOK REVIEW: MATTHEW SPERLING – ASTROTURF

*Just a gentle note, this review may contain small spoilers*

I saw this bright green cover and requested it straight away. But when it arrived, I didn’t realise how bright the cover actually is. This book is also a very short book with short and snappy chapters that makes it a fun, easy read. So, what is it all about? Here’s the blurb:

At thirty, Ned is in a rut. He’s weedy, shy, unlucky with women and average at work.

Encouraged by a friend to try using steroids to bulk up his frame, Ned is pleased to discover a new vitality within himself. Physical changes are only the beginning: his mental state is clearer, he feels more confident, and most thrillingly of all, friends and lovers alike seem compelled by this new, improved Ned.

Using his knowledge of the online subculture surrounding steroid use, Ned begins to build a business, and soon discovers that his talents can take him further than he ever thought possible. But when his new life is threatened, he finds himself doing all sorts of things he never would have dared to do before.

And it all seems to be going fine…

At first, I didn’t really *get* this book. To be honest, I find it a difficult book to describe. This book is a bit out of my usual reading taste but also still familiar in its humour and great writing. The thing that really struck me was it was set around the subject of steroids. This something that I have no idea about. But isn’t that the joy of reading? Discovering something new, learning something new, meeting different people, having an insight into something you wouldn’t normally do? That’s what I found the strongest part of this book – the information about steroids, how people use it, why they use it, etc. There’s a lot of information about steroids but it’s told with humour and wit and warmth too.

Ned is a fascinating character and I think he’s well written too by Sperling. We follow Ned through the story as he steps into the steroid world and uses them. But then after a few months, he starts to use his skills as a web designer and builds a business in the steroid world online. What I found interesting is that Ned creates a large number of different characters that start to become more than just a fake username profile. Ned creates worlds for these characters with depth and intense backstories for each of them.

What I got from this book is that there’s a lot of important themes at play told seamlessly with Sperling’s wit and humour. Themes such as the idea of masculinity in the modern world, addictions and obsessions and how far someone would go (aka Ned). The use of social media is an important theme of social media and how people use social media. Of course, we all know that social media is prominent in our society and I think Sperling captures that in this book via Ned.

Sperling is a fantastic writer that really gets deep into the heart of the story and doesn’t waste a single second on the page. The chapters are sharp and snappy that will make you keep turning the page after page. He writes humour very well too and has created a wonderful and flawed character in Ned. It’s a bold, frank, assertive debut novel about the power of steroids, addictions and obsessions, the idea of masculinity and trying to fit into that ideal and how far someone would go.

Have you read Astroturf? What did you think? Let me know in the comments.

Thank you,

Corey.

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