Happy as Larry by Scot Gardner

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Allen and Unwin, 2010. ISBN 9781741754810.
(12-16 yrs) Happy as Larry sets the life of Laurence Augustine Rainbow, born to parents Malcolm, a postman, and Denise against the backdrop of the cataclysmic world events of the 1990s and the 2000s. Despite the turmoil in the rest of the world Larry and his parents live happy and simple lives, protected by their love for each other, until a destructive friend causes Larry to be distrusted by both family and friends. His parents lose some respect for him, and doubt each other, Denise finding solace in movies, Malcolm in alcohol. Both have to come to an understanding about their own childhoods, while Larry struggles on with his relationships with them and with friends.
This is a well-intentioned novel that deals with many issues, what holds a family together, bullying and how to deal with it, amongst others. It makes some valid points about family dynamics, but the backdrop of world events seems to be a gimmick rather than to inform the action or the characters' motives. It is simply though awkwardly written, and could be useful in social education classes. Unfortunately it is just not believable, it being hard, for example, to imagine an 11 year-old boy who still believes in Santa, and the denouement is both violent and unrealistic.
Jenny Hamilton