Review Blog

Oct 19 2010

Wavelength by A. J. Betts

cover image

Fremantle Press, Perth 2010. ISBN 978 1921696305.
Highly recommended. At first this seemed like just another in a stream of books about kids in year 12 not coping, or coming to grips with themselves, but after a few pages, it is clear that this is an exceptional read, stunningly different form many others. Oliver is not coping with year 12. Mum's business of making muffins, dozens of them, in the early morning, interrupts his much needed sleep, and when she goes off in her van making deliveries, it is up to Oliver to make sure his siblings are ready and off to school. So one morning he explodes. As a result, Mum packs him off to his father, now at Buselton, a swimming instructor at a leisure centre. But all is not what he expects. Needing a space apart to study, his dreams are shattered when his bag is stolen and he loses his books and calculator. The girl who works at the canteen at the pool, mocks his distress, and his father, although trying to be helpful, underwhelms his vision of what his father does for a living.
Oliver thought he had it all mapped out, going to uni next year with his friends, all taking geology together, but the canteen girl upsets his views, questions his reasons and generally turns his ideas on their head. The pool is part of a centre attached to an elderly citizen's village and so Oliver comes in contact with many groups of older people in the course of his day. Through them he learns more tolerance and patience as he copes with the everyday. His father is not doing the work he expected him to be doing and at first, he, like the canteen girl, is seen as a failure, but reassessing his views over the week, he learns to question his own aims with more care. A wonderful read, quite different from the expected turn of story, this book has a range of characters not usually seen in adolescent fiction. The older people are all drawn with care and are never cliched, the father and his companion are presented truthfully and the girl in the canteen is questioning and acute in her dealings with the mess that is Oliver.
Fran Knight

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