Bonesland (Brendan Lawley, Text)
Sixteen-year-old Bones Carter has a lot going on. With his obsessive-compulsive tendencies, anxiety, germ-phobia, separated parents and regular harassment at the hands of his older brother Trav and school bully Chase Barnes, it’s little wonder Bones doesn’t pay much attention when American exchange student Naya arrives at his high school in Banarang, Victoria. While his mates Jimmy, Tyson and Leon immediately try to get into Naya’s pants, Bones reckons she’s an overachieving do-gooder. But as he gets to know Naya, he realises he’s got her all wrong—and that she makes him feel more alive than he ever thought possible. This lively, big-hearted novel by debut author Brendan Lawley was shortlisted for the 2017 Text Prize, and evocatively captures the adolescent experience in all its awkward, emotionally intense agony. Lawley’s male characters may be a bit much for some readers; with their trumped-up tales of sexual escapades and over-the-top slang, these teenage boys don’t hold back. But the brash dialogue and vivid sense of time and place give Bonesland energy and authenticity, and Bones’ more measured first-person perspective helps ground the narrative. This amusing, poignant coming-of-age story deftly addresses some of the issues facing today’s teens, from mental health to social media, and puts a fresh spin on a familiar message about the value of being yourself.
Carody Culver is a Brisbane-based freelance writer and editor