Review Blog

Jul 23 2008

Screw Loose by Chris Wheat

cover image

Allen and Unwin, 2008. ISBN 978174175495 7
326p.
(Ages 12+) Angelo fields a phone call from the assistant manager of the Hobart Cockies, the AFL team he has been playing with, about his photo in the daily newspaper. Angelo broke his finger in his first match for the junior AFL team. The assistant manager is not happy. Angelo mustn't talk to the media without consulting him, and his girlfriend is not what she should be, offering a more suitable specimen from his squad of footballers' girlfriends. But Angelo is just one of the diverse groups of people who inhabit this world.

Wheat's knowledge of schools and families is unforgiving. He lampoons, satirises, ridicules and criticizes with impeccable ease, drawing out foibles and insecurities with the eye of a specialist, holding them up to our scrutiny, shaping our view of them, drawing us into their world. I laughed out loud at the antics of Zaynep, boiling her family's shoelaces and Chelsea, trying to get her state school to be more like the private school she was expelled from, or Georgia, enrolling at the private girls' school because it gave more scope of getting a girlfriend, or Matilda, saved from the dingoes that raised her, and now a minor celebrity. Wheat introduces us to the zaniest of characters but each is totally believable. He has the ability to make these unusual people credible and brimming with humanity, not one is a stereotype or cliched (well perhaps one or two of the minor characters) but his ability to make his readers empathise with his range of people is outstanding. It is a marvelous read, one that kids of all ages and backgrounds will absorb, from secondary to adult. And it's very funny, refreshingly so.
Fran Knight

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