The gritty reality of this coming-of-age novel from Vikki Wakefield is balanced by the keen edge of its humour. The strong, economical prose
style, vivid narrative voice, well-drawn characters, and ratcheting tension make it a compelling read.
16-year-old Nate McKee knows he’s smart but also believes statistically he’s “doomed to a shit life”. He lives in Bairstal, where tough is the golden ticket, but Nate isn’t tough. He’s afraid at home, afraid at school, which he describes as a multicultural war zone, and afraid on the streets.
Worrying, he says, is a form of prayer for people who don’t believe in god. Think about that for a moment. His main aim is to keep his head down and be invisible. Move too fast and it looks like you’re nervous; walk too slowly and you’re easy to catch.
Sources of love, support, and optimism exist in his life but they are unpredictable and flawed. He fills his notebook with the things he can’t say, dropping words “like stones” into the pages, so he doesn’t have to carry them around.
The book is not only a gripping read, but an important wake-up call about privilege and assumptions, about the effects of the stories we tell ourselves, and learning to see things differently.
Age 15 up.
Reviewed by Andrea