Loner (Georgina Young, Text)
Lona has dropped out of art school. She’s working the same job she’s had since high school, letting her only significant friendship drift along and basking in feeling detached from everyone and everything. In her mind, dropping out of fine arts because it’s pointless is simultaneously perfectly valid and an embarrassing cliche. This is where novel that won the 2019 Text Prize starts. As Lona stumbles through her post–high school years in the kind of unknowing that many smart, artistic young people do, she grapples with questions that are both serious and achingly self-conscious: what does anything mean in a post-modern, post-ironic world? If there’s nothing original left to make or do, if irony is dead and life is meaningless … what exactly are we supposed to be doing? Nerdy, self-aware protagonists from comfortable suburbia can come off as arrogant, their nihilistic questions reading as a longing to have something to be unhappy about. Debut author Georgina Young avoids this by using Lona’s internal monologue to narrate the novel, never winking to the reader or exhibiting meta-awareness. In this way, Lona’s detachment reads as non-performative and the reader is drawn in as she tries to find a way forward. Loner manages to show both in its content and by its very existence that yes, new voices can take an age-old experience like life on the cusp of adulthood and bring something refreshing and new to its expression.
Freelance writer Lefa Singleton Norton currently works at Yarra Plenty Regional Library Service.