The Boy From the Mish (Gary Lonesborough, A&U)
Jackson is an Aboriginal teen who lives with his mum and little brother; he has a girlfriend, good mates and the local men’s group. Then his aunty from the city comes to stay, along with a new person, Tomas, who stirs feelings in Jackson that he doesn’t quite understand. Despite their growing affection and intimacy, Jackson struggles with what these feelings mean for his identity. Is something more than friendship possible? Gary Lonesborough handles the characters in The Boy from the Mish with an honesty that brings them to life, telling the story with a sweetness and charm that initially surprises, given the intentional roughness of the setting, characters and events of the opening chapters. As the book goes on, it evolves into something unexpected and delightful, which holds through Jackson’s internal conflict and continues as he discovers more about himself. His sexual awakening is an important story, much softer than the one told in Holden Sheppard’s Invisible Boys but no less valuable for readers to experience. When this book goes onto my school library shelves, it will get a love heart–shaped ‘relationships’ genre sticker on the spine, because that’s truly what it is all about. While Lonesborough has built in other important thematic elements, including racial discrimination and the impact of traditional Indigenous culture on young people, the love story is at its core. This heartwarming debut novel will appeal to fans of David Levithan and Becky Albertalli.
Tehani Croft is a teacher librarian, academic, publisher and literary awards convenor.