Review Blog

Jul 28 2011

The comet box by Adrian Stirling

cover image

Penguin, 2011. ISBN 978 0 14 320610 1.
(Ages 12+) Recommended. Life in the 1980's is stunningly recreated for this story of suburban life, surmounted by routine and expectations adhered to, of problems hidden under the carpet and never spoken of, of boys wanting more than the life being offered. Andrew and his nuclear family live in the outer suburbs, where the fields ver the road are being remodelled for a new suburb and supermarket, the trees torn down, large tracts of land reshaped, and tunnels dug for huge cement pipes. It is the year of Halley's Comet, and Andrew's teacher asks the students to make a wish and place it in the Comet Box in the room, to be reveled next year. Andrew steals the box, wanting to know the secrets of his classmates and finds things about many of them that he has never noticed before.
But one day, after a loud argument at home, his sister, Amelia, disappears, and this changes the way people speak to him and his family, and the way the family operates. Loaded down with a lack og knowledge of what is happening within his family, Andrew seeks refuge with his best friend, Romeo, and together they become aware of other things in their suburb which have been kept secret.
A story overflowing with the sights and sounds of suburban Australia, languishing under its own vision of Nirvana, the veneer of respectability and contentment is eroded away by the ugliness underneath. Andrew is not told anything, he must work things out for himself, adding pieces of information together to eventually understand why his sister disappeared and why when brought home by the police, she runs off again. All the while the comet is drawing closer, and the secrets Andrew knows about his classmates must be returned to the box before anyone knows. The comet signifies change in the community, and while many of the issues which the children see as important to them remained unresolved, Andrew's family at least brings things to the surface.
Fran Knight

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