All The Books I Can Read

1 girl….2 many books!

Review: The Boy From The Mish by Gary Lonesborough

on July 21, 2021

The Boy From The Mish
Gary Lonesborough
Allen & Unwin
2021, 288p
Read via my local library/Borrow Box

Blurb {from the publisher/}: A funny and heart-warming queer Indigenous YA novel, set in a rural Australian community, about seventeen-year-old Jackson finding the courage to explore who he is, even if it scares him.

‘I don’t paint so much anymore,’ I say, looking to my feet.

‘Oh. Well, I got a boy who needs to do some art. You can help him out,’ Aunty Pam says, like I have no say in the matter, like she didn’t hear what I just said about not painting so much anymore. ‘Jackson, this is Tomas. He’s living with me for a little while.’ 

It’s a hot summer, and life’s going all right for Jackson and his family on the Mish. It’s almost Christmas, school’s out, and he’s hanging with his mates, teasing the visiting tourists, avoiding the racist boys in town. Just like every year, Jackson’s Aunty and annoying little cousins visit from the city – but this time a mysterious boy with a troubled past comes with them… As their friendship evolves, Jackson must confront the changing shapes of his relationships with his friends, family and community. And he must face his darkest secret – a secret he thought he’d locked away for good. 

I really enjoyed this book – the other night I was scrolling Borrow Box late at night, looking for a few reads that were different to what I had on my shelves and this one ticked a few boxes I was interested in exploring. It has an Aboriginal main character (actually pretty much all the characters are) and is written by an Aboriginal author. The main character is also questioning many things about themselves, so there’s some other representation as well.

So, Jackson has finished year 11 and summer holidays stretch in front of him on the “Mish” where he lives with his mother and brother. His friends and girlfriend also live on the Mish as well and Jackson’s Aunt is about to arrive from Sydney with a barrage of cousins as they do every summer. Jackson isn’t interested in going back to school but his mother has made it very clear that if he doesn’t he’ll be getting himself a job. School is a minefield of racism and micro aggressions and Jackson has definitely found some trouble there in recent times. To complicate matters, when his Aunt arrives, she brings someone unexpected – Tomas is Koori like them all, around his age and fresh out of juvie. And making Jackson wonder a lot of things about himself.

Jackson and his friends are living a typical Australian summer lifestyle – parties, swimming, the beach, the carnival that comes to town each year. Jackson has a girlfriend but things are not exactly good there as Jackson has been having a few issues in the…physical department. Issues that may be more explained when Tomas arrives with his aunt and gives Jackson many more thoughts.

Jackson is torn over his feelings because he definitely fears how other people, especially his friends and even his mother, will perceive him should he be honest with them and himself about how he feels. He wants to explore but he also wants it to be kept very secret and is often terrified of others finding out. A lot of this book is about Jackson coming to terms with who he really is and how that relates to his Aboriginality and the views of those around him on the Mish. Jackson has definitely been suppressing thoughts and feelings he’s had for a little while now, having made a decision to ‘not be like that’ and to invest in a future that looks a certain way: marrying, having children, etc. But the arrival of Tomas definitely shakes those determinations.

I really liked Jackson and Tomas together, they’re thrown into this situation of sharing a room when Jackson was not expecting an older teen to be part of the crew. They have to get to know each other and this is definitely complicated for Jackson by some of this thoughts and feelings being more than friendly. He tries to hide it but Tomas is interested too, which gives Jackson the sort of thoughts about what this might lead to. How it could be. It’s different to his girlfriend for sure, giving him more clarity of who he is but it’s not something he adjusts to right away. He doesn’t really want to face this aspect of himself or take it public just yet. This causes some tension with Tomas, because who wants to be a secret? Hidden away like it’s something to be ashamed of? But Jackson has to come to terms with this himself, before he feels like he can be exposed in that way to people he cares about.

Jackson and his friends also have “run-ins” with some of the local white teens as well as the cops, who are quick to flick the lights on and pull them over for any perceived misbehaviour. This book shows how teens of colour can and are targeted and how when they are the subject of racist abuse and retaliate, they are often the ones who wear the penalty with the aggressors going unpunished. Jackson’s mother is always telling him to walk away, to not react, to not give anyone else the satisfaction of him reacting exactly as (white) people would predict he would. But Jackson is still young and hotheaded and reacting to abuse and discrimination and racism by lashing out and wanting to defend himself and teach the aggressors a lesson.

This is really fantastic own-voices story telling.


Book #123 of 2021

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