Laura Buzo has woven a beautiful story of first love and growing up all set around the aptly named Land of Dreams (Chris’ name forThe Quickie Review
Laura Buzo has woven a beautiful story of first love and growing up all set around the aptly named Land of Dreams (Chris’ name for Woolworths or Woolies as it’s so fondly named by the Aussie public, which is a large supermarket chain in Australia for all you non Aussies reading this). It’s a story of one who is just entering young adulthood and another who is leaving it but both are trying to understand and find their place in the world.
Good Oil engross you from page one with two utterly complex yet relatable characters, the shy, smart Amelia and the boisterous, fun loving Chris, both of who I adored. It’s cute, it’s bittersweet and it’s a 'little bit heartbreaking' but it’s also beautifully honest and well worth reading. Laura Buzo has made a definite impact on me and, fingers crossed, the Aussie YA literary world as well, I hope she has many more books to come.
The Full Blown Review
15 year old Amelia works at Woolworths or as her favourite fellow worker Chris calls it ‘The Land of Dreams’ and it is indeed ‘The Land of Dreams’ for Amelia who soon develops an first all consuming crush on her 21 year old co-worker which quickly and unexpectedly turns into her first love (her realization or ‘ah-ha’ moment that she’s in love with Chris happens sitting on the couch watching TV with her little sister). Unfortunately for Amelia Chris, at first, doesn’t even remotely think of Amelia that way. Both Amelia and Chris see something in each other and their friendship develops over the course of the novel, however will Chris ever be able to overcome the 6 year age gap between them to see Amelia as she wants to be seen in his eyes?
Good Oil is told in dual narratives between 15 year old Amelia and 21 year old Chris through his diary entries, I loved how we got both of their perspectives about their relationship and also what each one was feeling and how they interpreted each other at the time. I guess what amazed me with this book was that the Amelia and Chris were so well developed and real that I could relate to both of them, which often isn’t the case in many novels, I mean one sure but both, not usually.
I loved Amelia she had this childish innocence to her that we all used to have, some more than others. Reading through Amelia’s narrative gave me flash backs to my teen years, trying to navigate through the murky waters of high school whilst also trying to understand where you fit into the overall picture world. Heck I was Amelia, I was frustrated with my parents on many an occasion, just like Amelia I hated my mothers smoking with a passion always making a point that it annoyed the crap out of me and yet she still continued with it, I was dealing with pushy and loud school boys going to and from school (only I got this privilege not only on a bus but a tram and train as well), I went to a girls school that had defined social hierarchies and it’s safe to say I was not in the ‘popular’ group, the only teenage boy contact I had was with my brother who it must be said barely tolerated me, one of my best friends abruptly (like literally overnight) went gaga for boys and suddenly I was in this place feeling alone and left out of it all, ah yes the teen years, lot of angst, I remember it well.
I also understood where Chris was coming from, he’s in his last year of an arts degree and what the heck is he going to do? I could totally understood his reasons for doing an honours year because that was me 2 years ago, I mean for me finishing uni and finding a job was just too unthinkable, especially because I did a degree with not too many great job prospects so what did I go and do? A masters degree, problem solved, but this didn’t really solve anything as I finish this year and once again I’m at the crossroads Chris was at, what am I going to do when I finish? Which BTW, just like Chris, annoys the crap out of me when people ask me that question, I don’t know what I’m going to do but it will come to me eventually people! Sorry about that little rant anyway where was I oh yes Chris. What I also really love was how whilst he at first appears to the reader as this really chipper, happy go lucky guy from Amelia’s observations we learn from Chris perspective that he feels like he’s alone, just like Amelia, and his life is a mess. It appears to Chris that everyone seems to be moving on with their lives post uni whilst he’s stuck in the same place doing the same things watching everyone passing him bye. He’s also trying to deal with his growing feelings for ‘the youngster’ which he sees as inappropriate because of their age gap even though Chris can really talk to Amelia and she makes him really think and question his previous notions of whatever subject they’re talking about. Chris also made some mistakes that annoyed me no end, there was one particular incident, why Chris, why I was asking myself but that’s what people do, they make mistakes and that’s what makes a character real. So I guess what I loved about Chris was how Laura so clearly conveyed his feelings of despair and hopelessness he had for his life, it was so clearly conveyed and well written that I really understood where he was coming from because I’ve been there and what do you know I seem to be back there again, eek!
It is also evident Laura knows her literature with sprinklings of references from The Great Gatsby to Great Expectations and The Catcher in the Rye. Pop cultural references also abound, my personal favourite was when Chris was describing having his heart ripped out à la Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. I love that these literary and pop cultural references are written so effortlessly throughout the book it makes for some really funny and engaging conversations between Amelia and Chris.
I knew throughout the book that logically there was only one possible ending and whilst both Amelia and Chris did connect intellectually the age gap between the two was simply too big, Amelia still has a lot of growing up to do and more to experience of the world, Chris on the other hand also has a lot of growing up to do but his is different from Amelia’s because they are in completely different stages in their lives. I’ve read the word bittersweet to describe the ending and I’m of the same opinion, it is bittersweet but there is the eternal flame of hope left for the two which for me is hopefully *crosses fingers and toes* a follow up to this book, I would sell my soul for a sequel, dramatic much, me?
To be quite frank I have fallen head over heels for this book, just like Amelia did for Chris! ...more
Congratulations are in order for Fiona Wood she has written a thoroughly entertaining debut YA novel which I devoured in only a couple of days. Six ImCongratulations are in order for Fiona Wood she has written a thoroughly entertaining debut YA novel which I devoured in only a couple of days. Six Impossible Things is a funny and poignant coming of age novel with a nerdy yet loveable protagonist who I have to say I have a bit of a soft spot for.
Dan’s had a bad couple of months, his mother is broke due to his fathers bankruptcy, his father just ‘came out of the closet’, he’s moved with his mother into an old house that’s cold and smells like urine, his mother’s new wedding cake business is not going too well especially when she’s talking all the brides out of marriage and to top it off Dan’s had to move from his private school to the local secondary school. It’s during this upheaval when Dan meets Estelle, does some morally questionable activities in her attic and comes up with his list of Six Impossible Things, but are they really impossible?
I just have to say that I adored this book, Dan was such a loveable character. It was really amazing seeing his transformation throughout the novel from a socially awkward teenage boy trying to make sense of his current situation to a confident and happy teenager. Dan never felt sorry for himself and he cared for the people around him, when he realised the financial black hole his mother was in he took it on himself to find a part time job, when his mother wanted him to hand flyers out at school for her cake business he did even though he knew it would be social suicide if he got caught. I found myself laughing out loud a number of times throughout the book at many of the things Dan did or said. My personal favourite was when walking to school for his first day, Jayzo, the school bully who takes a particular shine to Dan, calls out dickhead to get Dan’s attention and big mistake Dan responds by turning around, hmm now that I’m writing this down it doesn’t sound as funny but trust me it is I’m just not conveying it very well.
Whilst we only get Dan’s point of view we were introduced to a fabulous cast of supporting characters, who I loved just as much as Dan, including Estelle, Dan’s dream girl, Jazyo the school bully, Fred, Dan’s best friend and my particular favourite Howard, the dog who came with the house. I loved Dan and Howard’s interactions, it put a smile on my face when Dan would talk to him this really endeared Dan to me, I’ll admit I too talk to my dog sometimes.
Also, I just have to say that I loved that this book was set in Melbourne, my home town, I actually knew where some of the places were.
* Dan’s voice, caring and self deprecating with a really sharp wit = hilarious * Supporting characters * The setting *go Melbourne!*