Allen & Unwin, 2005
Things I want:
A magic bicycle
Two tickets to Natural Affinity
A Vietnamese blue silk eiderdown
To see a ghost
Eva to shift to another planet
A cyborg to clean my room
If Seinfeld was an Australian YA book about a fifteen year old girl whose main aim in life is to save enough money for tickets to a pop concert, this might be it.
Well, okay, not really, but Seinfeld was famed for being about 'nothing', and in a way this book is about nothing, too. That's not say it's boring, and there's certainly a lot of different threads - but rather than focus on any of these, it's more about Georgia's journey through.
Georgia lives with her mum. Her dad died when she was young, and her mum remains fixated on her dad's memory. She's close to her grandad, but the rest of her family drive her a bit mad - her crazy aunt, her other aunt and uncle, who can't stop fighting, and her cousin Gilda, limp and disappearing under the weight of her parents' constant battles. Georgia's best friend is Mel, a vegan girl with acne who understands Georgia's anguish at not looking like everyone else, except Mel is a) in love and b) going to the beach for the summer, leaving Georgia all alone.
Feeling alone, Georgia starts to make lists. Useful lists and silly lists and wishful lists, all in a yellow journal. Her aim is to save up enough money to see her favourite band, Natural Affinity, in Melbourne, which prompts a string of jobs over her lonely summer. She hangs out with the cool kids but still feels inferior. She and her mum tiptoe around the subject of her dad. And, obviously, there's a boy.
I still couldn't say the book was about any of these things: mostly, it's about all of these things to some extent, but moreover it's a kind of coming of age, as Georgia comes to terms with her family, her friends, and herself. On occasion I found her narrative voice to be annoying, but the more I thought about it the more I think Lowry got it spot on. There's an edge to some of the things she says, a kind of self-righteous defensiveness, that reminded me of someone I knew when I was a teenager. But then a lot of the things that Georgia is dealing with - insecurities about her weight and appearance, growing apart from her best friend, simultaneously wanting and not-wanting to be like everyone else - reminded me of the same person, so although it was a little bit annoying at times it did in fact ring true for me.
That's not to say Georgia is an annoying character - it's easy enough to sympathise with her, and I liked that there wasn't a miracle makeover involved at any point, and that the boy wasn't used simply to fix all of her problems. Her changing relationship with Mel was also interesting, and there were some nice moments between Georgia and her grandad.
My only real issue was that although Georgia's voice rang true, some of the conversations didn't. Some of the conversations between the teenage characters sounded very obviously written by an adult, and rather than have conversations develop a character would just say everything they needed to say in one go, or offer up a handy pseudo-psychological reasoning for their actions, one of those "I'm sorry I yelled but I guess growing up with a violent father means I don't know how to handle my emotions properly" moments that seems unlikely to ever come out of someone's mouth in real life. Georgia and her mother handily resolve an issue that's been simmering for most of the book in less than two pages, going from full-blown yelling and accusations to hugs and forgiveness without the reader ever having to blink.
As a light, realistic coming of age story, this is certainly worth a read, and was perfect for a lazy weekend. Although I didn't enjoy it as much as the other Lowry book I have read (Follow The Blue), it's still a fun slice of contemporary YA.
Overall rating: 6/10
Book source: Borrowed from the library.