Everything in its right place by Tobias McCorkell

cover image

Transit Lounge, 2020. ISBN: 9781925760606.
(Age: Senior secondary / Adult) Recommended. Ford McCullen is a teenager growing up in the rough neighbourhood of Coburg, in the shadow of Pentridge Prison. However thanks to a legacy from his grandmother (his father's mother) he gets to attend the posh school in Toorak, including violin lessons. It is this dichotomy that is at the heart of the book. The scene is set for us from the first chapter when an encounter with Moose the tough kid of his neighbourhood, and a wild ride on the back of a quad bike, sees him waving goodbye to his violin.
Ford lives with his mother and his grandparents; his mother is not coping, and his estranged father's various male partners are not easy to live with. In fact there are some quite horrible scenes of abuse in his father's place, but the whole story is told with a kind of humour that accepts that is just the way life is. Life is rough, Ford's mates are into drink, drugs, and hooliganism and Ford drifts along with them.
His grandparents have great expectations of him, but his teachers, and even his school friends, do not. They are actually surprised if he performs well or if he says something intelligent. Because that is not the kind of person they take him for.
McCorkell's novel deals with issues of class, teenage delinquency, abuse, and mental illness, but it is not hard to read. The humour carries it along, and while there are poignant moments, we know that Ford will survive, perhaps even surprise everybody including himself.
Themes: Families, Identity, Coming of age, Mental health, Abuse, Class divisions.
Helen Eddy