Book of the Year 2019

In August the CBCA will announce the winner and honour books for their six categories. Of course, my favourite category is older reader and I have read all six books that have been nominated for this category. I have written reviews for four of the six books and here are my final two reviews. I am not really fussed, which two books win ‘honour’ books. My favourite book and my pick for the winner is Lenny’s Book of Everything.

In Changing Gear, we are introduced to Merrick, who six months ago lost his grandfather. One day his grandad was there and then he’s not. Merrick had a special bond with his grandfather – they were friends and Merrick’s grandfather was always there to help him navigate life. Without his grandfather, Merrick feels lost and ‘like a passenger in  his own skin.’ Merrick decides he needs to get out of his own head and he needs to escape from his life. He takes his bike and a couple of hundred dollars in cash and heads off. He leaves behind his phone and any connection to his life. Along the way, Merrick’s bike breaks down. It is during this time that he meets up with Victor, a man who spends his life walking the Australian roads. Victor is a man of few words and a man who doesn’t suffer fools. Victor and Merrick walk the roads together and as they walk, they talk.

I thought I would like this book more than I did, but it just didn’t resonate with me. I did like that Merrick was a relatively normal kid – he has friends, he’s not a complete loser and he seems to be doing reasonably well at school. Life throws him a curveball when he loses his grandfather and he feels off-kilter. He’s in his last year of high school and he’s not quite sure what he’s doing with his life. Maybe this book will resonate more for young men in their final years of school.

One aspect of the book that I enjoyed was Gardner’s writing of Australia. His descriptions of the Australian landscape is breathtaking. He captures the absurd beauty of this country exceptionally well. Changing Gear moves at a slower pace to match the walking speed of Merrick and Victor – this wasn’t particularly to my liking, but I understood that Gardner wants us, the reader, to slow down and unpack Merrick and Victor’s lives – and our own. Changing Gear by Scot Gardner is a solid read and has a lot to offer many readers, but I wasn’t one of them.

Between Us is a beautiful book. It weaves together three narrative voices flawlessly. I was quite moved by this book. I do believe that if you want to change people’s perceptions, then you have to show them, rather than being didactic. It is evident that Atkin has done extensive research for this book and her understanding of the issues that she writes about is clear. Between Us is a book that all Australians should read because it allows the readers to step inside someone’s else’s shoes.

The story revolves around Jono, Ana and Kenny. Jono is depressed. His mother and sister have moved away and he’s suffered quite a lot of sadness in his young life. He lives with his Vietnamese father who works at the Detention centre and the relationship the two share is not an easy one. Ana is an asylum seeker from Iran; she lives in a detention centre but is allowed to attend one of the local high schools. Jono and Ana meet and they connect.

Between Us gives readers an insight into multi-generational immigration and how everyone’s immigrant story is different. Jono’s father’s story is different from Ana’s and even his sister’s, Minh. They are all immigrants, but they look at Australia differently because of their experiences.

This is a story that will resonate with you long after you finish reading. A book that is truthful and credible but at the same time is delightful, gentle and captivating.

 

Small Spaces

The Art of Taxidermy

The Bogan Mondrian

Just Breathe

Author: Andrew Daddo

Publisher: Penguin

Just Breathe, a beautiful coming of age book. I consider myself a person who isn’t too emotional, even a tad cynical at times, but this book by Andrew Daddo melted my cold heart – I also shed a tear and I can’t remember the last time I shed a tear when reading a book.  I heard Andrew Daddo on the radio and he said when he asked his fifteen-year-old daughter what should he write about next, she suggested, ‘write something to make me cry’. Well, I’m sure Daddo’s daughter did cry.

This is a book about possibilities. Two young people who are on the brink of discovering who they are and what they hope for their future.  Just Breathe is an exhilarating, emotional rollercoaster – the rollercoaster of being a teenager.

What I particularly liked about this book was that the two characters that the book centres around are such great kids. Emily and Hendrix are two kids who are dealing with challenges in their life, but they aren’t letting these challenges rule their life or determine their future. Together they are navigating their own lives and supporting each other to be the best person they can be.

Emily is dealing with a life-threatening tumour but she doesn’t want it to define her, nor does she want it to limit her life. She wants to fall in love, to make mistakes and most importantly, she wants to be a teenager.

Hendrix is living and training as an elite athlete. His father is controlling his life because his father’s dream is to see Hendrix as the next national champion. In the beginning, Hendrix believes that this is what he wants, but as his world expands, he realises that life has so many more possibilities and that he doesn’t want to be tied to his father’s dream.

Emily and Hendrix are two beautiful characters who are intelligent, funny and snarky. Daddo’s writing is superb. Just Breathe will capture your heart from the moment you start reading and it never let’s go.

Special mention must go to Ethan. Hendrix and Ethan strike up an unlikely friendship through their running and Ethan reminds Hendrix of what it is to be a teenage and particularly a teenage boy.  Ethan provides us with many moments of sheer joy and humour. He is also the friend that everyone should have in their life. Ethan is an easy-going character whose actions start at his heart, not his brain. He doesn’t have a malicious bone in his body and he wants the best for everyone, but he isn’t a syrupy character and I applaud Daddo for providing us such a great character.

Just Breathe shows us that teenagers are fundamentally the same no matter the era. Daddo has managed to write a beautiful book that captures that fantastic time of being a teenager. When you can see all the possibilities that life has for you, but you are also frightened and overwhelmed by those possibilities. As you read this book, you will be taken on an emotional ride that will make you feel, laugh and cry. Just Breathe is a book full of heart.

daddo