"IT was dazzling, how something marvellous could be destroyed so quickly and so completely.”

This sentence cuts through about a third of the way through the Booker-winning Douglas Stuart’s new novel, Young Mungo. It sits inconspicuously, near the bottom of a page, after the eponymous Mungo watches his brother set fire to an orange Ford Capri they have joyridden to the Ayrshire coast.

The Hamilton boys watch the flames dance on the car – Mungo wondering why they can’t just return the motor undamaged, and “just this once not spoil everything good that came to them”. This line captures an energy that flows through the whole of Young Mungo – an unnerving pulse, a feeling that something awful could happen at any moment. It is this tension that makes Stuart’s writing so moreish.

Some people find his work difficult to read for this reason – because his stories have the capacity to become too bleak, too destructive, too painful. This is understandable, but the reverse is also true. With the darkness comes the light; joy blooms in the barest of places. An epic tenderness is borne between two boys who risk it all to love each other in 1990s Glasgow. As Stuart writes, “first came the hurt, then came the kiss”.

The characters feel familiar – Mungo’s older brother, Hamish, or Ha-Ha, is the cut-throat ringleader of the local Protestant young team, his absent mother, Mo-Maw, is more invested in retaining her latest boyfriend than her children; and Jodie, his elder sister, is a street-smart and reliable source of comfort to Mungo in an environment which lacks safety or consistent love – but still, they are a long way from well-worn, and rendered flesh and blood in their capacity to surprise.

The moments between the star-crossed lovers – Mungo and his Catholic neighbour James – are authentic and generous. In one scene, Mungo holds one of James’ racing pigeons down in the doocot, as James smooths bleach over its body, hoping its dyed feathers will attract male pigeons, after all: “It’s science, int it? Everybody prefers a blonde.”

Like other works that expound themes of alcoholism, systemic poverty and neglect, the outcomes are fairly predictable. Children go hungry, addictions are succumbed to, and the vulnerable are taken advantage of. As such, the novel winds between Mungo’s life leading up to and during his relationship with James, and a second timeline, which documents the inevitable aftermath.

The opening scene sees Mungo being sent away to a remote Scottish loch with two older men Mo-Maw knows through her AA meetings in a bid to show Mungo “the masculine pursuits” of real men.

Never before having seen “a glen, a loch, a forest, or a ruined castle”, Mungo is ill-prepared for the harshness of both the landscape and the company, having packed only a pair of shorts and a board game. The situation is both foreboding and queasy. What follows is an unwinding of (as Stuart puts it) “the pressure we put on working-class boys to ‘man-up’ and all the terrible things and violence that can flow from that”.

Stuart’s second novel has already faced criticism for being cut from the same cloth as his debut, retreading familiar ground as a tableau of working-class Glasgow and featuring a neglectful, alcoholic mother and a self-conscious, queer male protagonist.

It is a similar world, but this is a different story. In an interview with Damian Barr last year, Stuart told the host he “had a real need to get this story and get other stories out of me”.

Each of his novels draw on a central turning point in his own life. Shuggie Bain, in his relationship with his mother; Young Mungo, his sexuality, and Stuart’s third book, a work-in-progress “set among the textile and crofting workers of the Outer Hebrides” leaves Glasgow behind, mirroring his own voyage into the world of fashion.

This third book is a product of a three-month research trip, where Stuart met with textile workers and crofters, collecting around 80 hours of audio recordings and interviews. Reading this made me think of the old adage, “write what you know”. Stuart’s journey as an author declares “write what you know – so you can write about what you don’t”.

Young Mungo comes out April 14 and is published by Picador