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Thursday, August 04, 2016

CBCA Shortlist: Just Finished The Pause by John Larkin

I finished this yesterday and bought a copy for the library.

Oh, my, this is a deadly serious book, not the slightly humorous, or at least whimsical one I had expected from the blurb. It is about depression. The hero, Declan O'Malley, throws himself under a train in a fit of depression after his girlfriend is sent to live with her aunt in Hong Kong by her abusive mother and doesn't send a text to confirm she has arrived okay. It turns out that her mother had confiscated her phone before she left.

But Declan's depression isn't just about that, it's about something truly horrible that happened when he was six. This is hinted at several times in the course of the book, before you finally learn just what it was his great-aunt Mary did to him when he was a child.

After a gruesome and detailed description of his being dismantled by the train, he speaks to the reader from "non-space", where he gets to see what would have happened if he had hesitated before jumping. It isn't all positive but it's a lot better than being killed and thinking of what it has done to his family, his girl and even the train driver. This takes up most of the novel - and, interestingly, goes over nine years; the Declan of the later part of the novel is well into his twenties.

I found it very readable and you might have noticed I finished it quickly. It might work for some of our students who feel like reading a deadly serious book, but today I only had three Year 7 girls, a Year 9 and a Year 10 with me at book club. And there were only two borrowings from the shortlisted books - The Flywheel and Soon.

I've started reading Inbetween Days by Vikki Wakefield and when that's done I will have read all the Older Readers books. I think, of those I've read so far, I'd give the award to Cloudwish.

And speaking of books that turn out to be deadly serious, I've just begun reading Lili Wilkinson's newest novel, The Boundless Sublime, and I don't think this is going to be the usual romantic comedy which my students enjoy so much. It starts with a thoroughly depressed mother and daughter sitting in the living room watching TV and doing very little else after a family tragedy. Oh, dear. I'm sure it will be a great book, but, I must admit, I like those romantic comedies as much as the kids do, and this is beginning to remind me of the time Paul Jennings, so beloved by so many children for his hilarious stories, decided to write a serious YA novel. It was good, don't get me wrong - in fact, very good! It just didn't feel like Paul Jennings. If it's still in print I'll be very surprised. 

It may be that the author  needed to get this book out of her system. 

Or it may be that funny books just don't win the Children's Book Council Awards. Some of them make  it to the shortlist, but I can't recall one ever winning. Paul Jennings and Andy Griffiths are hugely popular with their readers, but not with awards judges. They just aren't literary enough. Ah, well. 

Anyone else out there reading the list? What do you think?


Pamela said...

I have to look up the list and see what's available here--I know Vikki Wakefield's name from Friday Never Leaving, but the others are unfamiliar to me. Shame on me!

I just finished a very good, very heavy book by Stephanie Kuehn--her new one, The Smaller Evil. It's a total mess-with-your-mind sort of book without a happy ending or even a tidy ending. I do think you're right, though, that super-serious novels win more awards. It doesn't make them better, though. Just different.

Sue Bursztynski said...

Friday Never Leaving's original title, here, is simply Friday Brown. Not all Aussie books are available in the U.S. The distributors have to agree to it. Possibly they prefer books that could happen anywhere, including the U.S. If a book is too recognisably Australian, they aren't always interested. And John Larkin's book and Fiona Wood's are unmissably set in, respectively, Sydney and Melbourne. You mustn't be embarrassed about it, not your fault the distributors and publishers over there are narrow! ;-)