Review Blog

Aug 04 2009

Boy on a Wire by Jon Doust

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Fremantle Press, 2009. ISBN 9781921361456
(Ages:15 - adult) Highly recommended. Boarding at one of Perth's private schools from his farm in SW Western Australia, Jack learns that the life of a student is far from the happy and carefree life he knew at his local primary school. Hit by teachers and prefects, bullied by other students, the brutality of the boarding school is one which affects him for many years after he leaves.
But he is no victim; Jack asks questions, enraging staff and students alike, making him the recipient of the slipper, the cane and the sandshoe, his words cutting the cornerstone of their privileges and customs. It is accepted at home that this will happen to him, and a code of silence ensures that it continues. Jack supports one other new boy, a quiet, solitary figure who has come to this school from the now, well known school to the north of Perth, where abuse was exposed. Jack is religious and it is this part of his life which gives him some comfort, although the questions he constantly asks of god are never answered, and the chasm between his religion and the practice at this school is overwhelmingly deep.
At times very funny, many times scarcely credible, but often moving and sometimes sad, this semi autobiographical story of a boy's life, growing up to be a man, will enrage, endear and instruct its readers, as they follow the boy balancing on the wire. The models of manhood he sees about him everyday in no way reflect what is expected of him as he grows to manhood, and the behavior of those paid to care for him is dreadful indeed.
This highly original story will be picked up eagerly by senior students. Comparisons with Catcher in the Rye, and Lord of the Flies, amongst others spring to mind as a boy struggles to survive in an alien environment, and search for some meaning in his life as he approaches adult hood.
Fran Knight

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