Review Blog

Oct 13 2009

Fill out this application and wait over there by Ruth Starke

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Omnibus, 2009.ISBN 9781862918474.
(Ages: 13-15) Ruth Starke at her wicked best, poking fun at everything from the uniforms worn by a well know chocolate factory's employees, to rules about turning on the cash register, to the half truths told to casual employees, to take away food, to people in check out queues and the general misuse of the English language. The list is endless as we read Hailee's diary of her year in casual work, saving for a holiday in Thailand during the following year, although she prefers the term traveler. Innocent, naive to the extreme (I had to keep reminding myself that this girl had just completed year 12), self centred and scathing of those around her, Haille muddles her way through part time work at a supermarket (SpendUp), some weeks at an up market boutique called Philosophe, one night at an Indian restaurant, some time at the local community paper, Suburban Echo, and 3 months work at Hamel's Chocolate outlet.
Each stint gives her a different look at employment and what happens in the workplace, but she is oblivious to the subtleties and undercurrents of working at all. She blunders through, taking umbrage at supervisors' comments and criticisms, merrily thinking that they should be impressed with her skills. She gives out wrong information, tells lies to get more hours at SpendUp, finds fault with those she works with, expects to get work on the floor rather than wash dishes, and generally has an incredible opinion of her abilities, which are minimal. She complains about the working hours, the uniforms, the staff rooms, the forms she must fill out, the pay, the customers, in fact everything!
All through the difference between what Hailee expects and the reality of her situation will cause readers to laugh out loud. Her naivety is overwhelming. Her mother's advice is never heeded, and her brother simply laughs at her, while her father actually suggests work at the paper where he does some part time work. It is fascinating to realise at the end of the book, that the jobs at which she has had some success are all those told to her by friends and relations, and that the work she is finally offered is not something she has thought about at all.
The humour and caustic comments about today's teens carry this long diary to Thailand, holding the reader's interest all the way through. Some glimmer of understanding about the vagaries of the workplace may filter through, and cause some readers to rethink their attitude to part time work, but on the whole they will gain a good laugh at Hailee and her efforts to save money.
Fran Knight

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