All The Books I Can Read

1 girl….2 many books!

Review: The Bogan Mondrian by Steven Herrick

on September 27, 2018

The Bogan Mondrian
Steven Herrick
UQP
2018, 240p
Copy courtesy of the publisher

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

‘There are worse things than school.’

Luke sleepwalks through his days wagging school, swimming at the reservoir and eating takeaway pizza.

That is until Charlotte shows up.

Rumour is she got expelled from her city school and her family moved to the Blue Mountains for a fresh start.

But when Luke’s invited to her house, he discovers there’s a lot more going on than meets the eye.

This is an example of how being a book blogger expands my horizons. This is not a book I’d have probably picked up on my own but I received it for review and I thought I might pass it onto my son. He’s 10 and in grade 4 but has been assessed as reading at an 8th grade level – however he doesn’t get to read everything at that level. His teacher and I tend to coordinate on what we think is still appropriate, given his age. So I decided to read this one first before I handed it over and I ended up enjoying it a lot.

Luke comes from the council housing side of town – he lives with his overworked mother, his father having passed away from cancer. Luke’s father seemed a larger than life character, a gambling man. Always with a hot tip at some track or other. Sometimes those hot tips panned out and the rewards were rich. But those times were brief and more often than not, the tips didn’t pan out and that’s life with someone who lives for the flutter. When Charlotte moves to his school from the city, they cross paths one day and Luke is surprised when Charlotte tells him that there are worse things than school. After all, what doe she have to worry about, with her big house on the other side of town and her father with his high paying city job?

But Charlotte has a confession about her ‘perfect life’ that allows Luke to see that trouble can be found anywhere, not just on his side of town. Charlotte’s situation is grim and Luke wants to help her but isn’t sure how. It’s clear that Charlotte desperately wants help – almost everything she does is a cry for help. She’s a very volatile character, prone to emotional outbursts which is confusing for Luke but he doesn’t give up on helping her.

I loved the characterisation in this – Luke, Charlotte, their friends, they’re teenagers just struggling to make their way. School is tedious and boring, their struggles with the principal almost a daily occurrence. Luke spends a lot of his time roaming his local area (the Blue Mountains) taking photographs and swimming at the reservoir. There’s rarely any food in the house, it seems his mother was never the cook and she spends a lot of time at work, probably just trying to make ends meet. Luke has such a nice relationship with some of his neighbours – he exchanges fruit and Italian insults with a man nearby and befriends the new owners of the local store, a Vietnamese-Australian couple who introduce him to banh mi and give him coffees. And then there’s Buster as well. Luke is not without his flaws and his grief is still quite obvious and raw but he’s a very likeable kid and the way he wants to help Charlotte is wonderful. I think perhaps Luke’s tendency to skip school and get in a bit of trouble is perhaps why Charlotte seeks him out in the first place, maybe wondering if he might help her in a different way. But Luke is smart as well and he ends up coming up with good ideas in order to help not just Charlotte out of the predicament.

I think this is so well done – it is such a good depiction of navigating high school and the ups and downs that everyone is facing and that the perfect façade can hide an ugly interior. There’s a frank portrayal of Charlotte’s issue that squarely places the blame where it should be intended and also highlights the difficulty than can come when the offender is one with money and power. I also liked the showing of Luke’s memories of his dad – the struggle of life with a gambler, even one who loves his family. Beautifully done.

7/10

Book #165 of 2018

 

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