One step by Andrew Daddo

cover image

Penguin Random House, 2016. ISBN 9780143573616
(Age: 15+) Adolescence. Bullying. Suicide. This book is an uncomfortable read on many levels. Being inside the mind of a young pubescent male with pimples is a difficult place to be. But added to that it is peppered with multitudinous poor choices, rampaging hormones, fickle friends, romantic inclinations, bad jokes and a family that makes his life embarrassingly difficult (as all families are for teenagers); this is a place that is intrinsically uncomfortable. When Dylan becomes the butt of everyone's humour and taunts after a bullying incident and his own lack of wisdom in the moments afterwards, the story begins to spiral downwards in a terrifying dive from the high tower (Dylan's sport of choice). And the degree of difficulty is high, but the landing is far from pretty!
This is not a book for the faint-hearted. The messiness and insecurity of teenage life and the difficulties of being the one who becomes the target for everyone's jests and the difficulties of navigating friendships and girls when you are not confident is raw and painful (despite the author's humour in presentation). In fact as the book progresses, it is obvious that this is not a fun, Diary of a wimpy kid clone, but rather a serious descent into the grim issues that confront some teens. As a consequence, the list of Help and Counselling services in Australia is included at the end of the book. It is also what makes this book hard to put into the hands of teenagers. It points out how easily life can turn ugly for some young people, when they are at the mercy of others. I am not sure that this book is helpful in presenting a picture of hope.
This is hard to recommend without the highest level of caution, and definitely not to someone who is already struggling with their own self-esteem, bullying or mental health issues. Do not conclude that this is a comedic exploration of teenage life; language and modes of expression are also vulgar in places.
Carolyn Hull