Review Blog

Aug 22 2018

Bonesland by Brendan Lawley

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Text Publishing, 2018. ISBN 9781925603583
(Age: 15+) Highly recommended. Explicit content. Shortlisted, The Text Prize, 2017. A multi-layered coming of age story about family, mates, bullies and maybe hooking up with the hot American exchange student. Set in country Victoria, Banarang is a fictional town.
But it's not pretty when you live in it every day. If you don't escape Banarang straight after Year Twelve, you've got two options - you make a bunch of kids with your high-school girlfriend or you smoke ice all day and start pub fights at night. There are plenty of guys who manage to juggle both.
In the first chapter Bones demonstrates that Banarang is a short commute to Melbourne. Bones is suffering from OCD, likely because his mother left. Given his oversexed mates with whom he shares the exact same urges, this inner monologue is hilarious. The boys don't pull any punches and the misogynistic dialogue and euphemisms are very explicit. But that's not the reason readers can't put it down. Every character is capable of redemption - even Dad, the loser and Shitty, the bully.
By contrast, Naya, the UNICEF "do-gooder" exchange student, seems to have more going on in her top paddock, as does the Muslim girl, Aaleyah. Despite his problems, Bones is soon fantasising about the cosmopolitan yet altruistic Naya. Jimmy is a leader by virtue of his confidence and cash but is intent on breaking into pop culture by imitating African American rappers - doubtless, girls will be offended by his lyrics. All the boys have problems, Leon is Gay and Bones' brother Trav is tangled up with the town bully, yet the friends tolerate Bones despite his nerdy obsessions. Tension builds as Bones is targeted in and out of school. The coward's punch climax is cathartic for Bones and his family.
"Bonesland" is the most consistently explicit YA title I've sampled; but somehow the language isn't gratuitous because we all know these Aussie males at the end of schooling, for whom the only meaningful education they have garnered is both the best and worst of each other. An eBook is available and Text Publishing link to Lawley's playlist while you read a sample chapter.
Deborah Robins

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