All The Books I Can Read

1 girl….2 many books!

The First Third – Will Kostakis

on August 30, 2013

First ThirdThe First Third
Will Kostakis
Penguin Teen Aus
2013, 248p
Copy courtesy of the publisher

Bill is a teenager living in Sydney. He’s part of a tightknit Greek family and spends most of his days wondering how he’s going to get his first kiss. The way in which this finally happens is not only anticlimactic and a bit embarrassing but it also causes Bill to be absent when his grandmother is taken ill at the Easter Church service.

While she is in hospital being treated, she gives Bill a ‘bucket list’ of things. But she’s got the whole idea slightly wrong – instead of this being a list of things she wants to accomplish herself, it’s a list of things she wants Bill to fix for her. The way she puts it – she is the glue that keeps the family together. The fact that she’s ill means that she might not be around to hold it all together for ever. She wants Bill to take steps to bring the family back tighter together, to step in and be the glue that needs to bind it when she’s gone. The list is:

  1. Find your mummy husband
  2. Have Simon girlfriend in Sydney
  3. Fix Peter

Bill sees several challenges immediately – his older brother Simon has moved to Brisbane and is most decidedly gay. Finding him a girlfriend anywhere, let alone attempting to draw him back to Sydney with one is going to be next to impossible. Also, his younger brother Peter has drifted so far away from him that he now seems to openly hate Bill. They were close when they were younger but now Peter leaves the room if Bill enters. The only person he seems to still want to seek out is their grandmother, their Yiayia. Fixing Peter, who spends most of his time at the gym or running is going to be a challenge when Peter won’t even speak two words to Bill. And as for the first one – well Bill’s mother has been alone since their father left, not to be seen again. He’d like nothing more than for her to find someone who treats her well but he hasn’t the first idea how to go about actually assisting with that.

The First Third is Australian author Will Kostakis’s second novel. Recently I attended the Penguin Teen Australia Live event in Melbourne and not only did we all receive a copy of this in our goody bags but Will was also a guest on the night and he spoke about his book and writing. It’s quite clear that Will drew a lot of inspiration from his own life when writing this. I am not Greek but I’ve mentioned several times that my in-laws are Sicilian and my MIL in particular is a younger version of the Yiayia in this book. I think that people out there will see the familiar in many of the characters and situations in this book, no matter their heritage.

For me, the two things I drew from it were family and the relationships you have with them and also, friendship. The Bill of the story (and also the real life Will, I believe) have absent fathers which meant that they spent a lot of time with their grandparents and formed a deep relationship with them. I am very close to my mother’s parents, whom I spent a lot of time with as a child and throughout school holidays. I loved the relationship that Bill had with his Yiayia and also, the way in which he glimpsed the ‘old Peter’, the brother that used to talk to him, through Peter’s interactions with Yiayia. The sibling relationship can be an up and down one and although it was a bit difficult watching Billy struggle to connect with Peter sometimes, I admired his persistence and the way in which he went from deciding not to bother about the list to changing his mind and wanting to do it and deciding against letting the family drift away.

The other incredibly strongly represented relationship in this book is that of Bill and his best friend Sticks (real name Lucas) who has cerebral palsy. Sticks is incredibly funny and the two of them do have the most amazingly deep friendship. It’s rife with gentle ribbing and good times but the two of them really do help each other in the best ways. Sticks throws himself into assisting with the bucket list and his feelings for Yiayia shine through as well – given as Bill’s best friend he must’ve spent some time with her too. The way in which he “lends” his own father to Bill, who doesn’t have one was embarrassing but also incredibly sweet. And Bill returns the favour for Sticks later in the novel, helping him get something that he doesn’t have the courage to go after himself. Sticks, who is both gay and disabled is portrayed so beautifully. He wasn’t his sexuality or his disability, he was his whole person, he was Bill’s best friend. Actually I think he was kind of the highlight of this book. His character just begs to be taken notice of.

I enjoyed all of the parts that made up this story. It made me laugh and had me sad towards the end as well. I haven’t read the author’s previous book but just from reading this one I think he has a great young adult voice and look forward to reading more from him.


Book #226 of 2013

20130830-110808.jpgWill Kostakis and fellow Penguin author Jennifer Kloester at the PTALive event in Melbourne, chatting about their books.

Aussie Author Challenge

The First Third counts towards my participation in the Aussie Author Challenge, where I’ve challenged myself to read more by Australian male authors to help balance out my reading. It’s the 15th book read for the challenge and the first young adult title.


2 responses to “The First Third – Will Kostakis

  1. This sounds like a beautifully heart-warming story! I love novels that focus on family dynamics, so The First Third sounds like it was written just for me. I’ve always been particularly impressed by the talent exhibited by Australian authors, and I can only hope this book will eventually be available for purchase in Canada 🙂

  2. […] Bill and Sticks/Lucas in The First Third by Will […]

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