From the beginning of the story, where Spud writes in the form of a journal, marking the hours and date of each entry, it is obvious that Ruit has an obvious audience in mind, which he is trying to persuade into reading the story. The audience: teenagers, boys, ones who can relate to Spud’s experience at his South African boarding school. After all, when you are a teenager, it is undoubtedly easier to read a story in which you can put yourself in the characters shoes. When Spud writes in his journal about one of his classes, where Sidney “Fatty” Smitherson-Scott’s “non-stop farting” drove his teacher “over the edge”, the honesty of the situation allows for teenagers to relate directly with Spud (24). John van de Ruit makes Spud work by purposely including small details of everyday teenage life in order to form a connection with the reader, never losing them in stereotypical, fictional drama of teenage life.
In-fact, Spud only works because of the way that Ruit makes his characters lifestyle so believable and amusing. Had Spud been a student at his boarding school who never had fun or drama, who would read this story? Nobody. Spud is believable because the situations in the story are exactly what life is like for teenagers: dramatic. Ruit gives boys all over the world something to relate with, from “psychopathic sluts” to “funerals” for friends (270, 302).
It is only fitting that a teenager would read this story because of the similarity between a teenager’s life and Spud’s life. The reader comes to realize not everything in Spud’s life is perfect, giving the story authenticity rather than fiction. Spud witnesses his parents “furious arguments”, leaving the reader feeling sympathy for Spud (102). I could also relate to Spud’s relationship with his parents because he is embarrassed of their presence. Spud’s life is not even close to perfect but more close to overwhelming, only proving the realism to Spuds life. Ruit gives Spud’s life faults so that the reader shows sympathy and emotion for him. After Gecko, one of Spud’s eight best friends dies; the detail of the journal entry by Spud left me feeling direct condolence for his loss. Spud, to no surprise, acts like a teenager in response to his friends death at the funeral by “[not] [listening] much” (302). Ruit understands that whenever tragedy happens to teenagers, they tend to close themselves off and hide their emotions. It is the way in which Ruit is able to understand teenager’s personas that makes this story successful.
The story of Spud’s journey through boarding school is believable, emotional, and almost cinematic. The way that Ruit sends Spud through twists and turns in his boarding school life makes the reader surprised of his success. Spuds story is more than anything an example of everyday boarding school, put into a journal. Spud shows that boarding school is not all about academics, there is so much more to it than that. For much of the time, Spud is attracted to wooing girls more than schoolwork. The difference between Spud’s story and an actual boarding schools student’s story is that Spud has all the details; there is nothing to hide because this story is fictional. Ruit tells everything, from “smoking pot” to “[his willy], Ruit is not afraid to tell the details of Spud’s life (170,273). Because Ruit tells these embarrassing and honest things about Spud, the reader appreciates and enjoys the story. Ruit tells details like this because he knows that real teenagers would never tell things of this magnitude of embarrassment, so he allows them to read about embarrassing things in Spud.
Whether or not boarding school has been apart of your life, Spud is a story that will cheer you up. I had no sense of regret in reading this story because Spud I could relate directly with many things in Spud’s ever-dramatic life. Teenage boys should find this story extremely interesting and funny due to the fact that it is about boy-hood and growing up. Whether or not you enjoy reading about teenage boy drama or not, Spud is a story that will have you wishing the story never ended.