Anti-Social – Nick Pettigrew

*I received a free ARC of this novel, with thanks to the author, Cornerstone / Penguin Random House and NetGalley.  The decision to review and my opinions are my own.*

Blurb: Has your life become unbearable because the person living above you has a fondness for crack cocaine, the company of strangers and dance music? Or maybe you’re a social worker, mental health nurse, police officer, firefighter, dog warden or vicar and you’ve been landed with someone who’s a pain in the arse. Who are you going to call? That would be me: an anti-social behaviour officer.

Anti-Social is the diary of a council worker whose job is to keep his community happy, or at least away from each other’s throats. That’s hard enough at the best of times but when government cuts mean that hospitals, social services and police are all at breaking point, the possibility of complete chaos is never far away.

This is an urgent, timely but, most of all, hysterically funny true story of a life spent working with the people society wants to forget and the problems that nobody else can resolve. This book will make you laugh, cry and boil with rage within a single sentence.

Anti-Social is the light-hearted documentation of a slow, year-long breakdown.

Nick Pettigrew exposes the life of an anti-social behaviour officer, with all its highs and lows (both the illegal and the legal and medically induced). Each section starts with a month, a jokey password and the dose of medication – or self-medication – that the author was on, like a hardcore Bridget Jones.

The anecdotes are self-contained snippets that give little snapshots of the day-to-day job of an ASBO. Certain ‘characters’ do pop up more than once, but for others their stories are left as fleeting and unfinished vignettes. This pattern reflects the nature of the work, as the officer’s involvement in each person’s life lasts only as long as their case requires, and also reality, as not every real-life story has a neat and tidy conclusion.

Throughout the book, the tone remains upbeat and full of black humour, but also quietly desperate. It actually becomes quite painful to read towards the end, as you follow the author’s inevitable spiral downwards as he deals with the daily small tragedies, indignities and cruelties that proliferate around the borders of illegal and anti-social behaviours.

Anti-Social provides a deeply interesting insight into a difficult job that is well-known but not widely understood and, tangentially, also insight into heaps of human nature as well… the good the bad, and the very, very stupid. An utterly entertaining, but not an easy read, this book left me with a huge sense of respect for Nick Pettigrew and his fellow ASBOs, and the underappreciated work they do.

All of what follows is true. All of it has either happened directly to me or has been relayed to me by a colleague. My job requires no embellishment. Exaggerating would be like drinking Red Bull to swallow ketamine or putting go-faster stripes on a lightning bolt. There’s no point. Identifying details have been changed to protect the innocent and guilty, as well as those who swear they’re not guilty but obviously are.

– Nick Pettigrew, Anti-Social

You can follow Nick Pettigrew on Twitter here.

Anti-Social is available on Amazon right now.

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