Caren's Reviews > Everybody Jam
by Ali Lewis
by Ali Lewis
This book is shortlisted for the 2012 Carnegie Medal, which is how I heard of it, as it apparently hasn't been published in the USA. The author has worked in journalism and did actually spend time on a cattle station in Australia, so the story is told in a quite straight-forward way, almost as a piece of journalism. It is a sort of slice of time on the ranch, as seen through the eyes of a thirteen-year-old boy. In that way, it could be considered a coming of age sort of story. The back cover warns that it is not suitable for younger readers, and, indeed, there are some mature themes in the book, so it is really meant for teens. Other reviewers have complained that there isn't s real plot to the book, but that it is a series of incidents strung together with no real resolution to any of the threads. This gives it a real-life feel to me, though. I was quite fascinated to be able to spend time on a remote Australian cattle station, seeing it all through the teen protagonist's eyes. Throughout the book, there is a lot of Australian slang, with no glossary to define the terms. Mostly, you can guess their meanings from the context, but not always; a glossary would have been nice. Still, you do feel as though you are immersed in the culture of the place. Upon finding out at the end of the book that the author had spent time on a cattle station, I naturally wondered if she had written herself into the story as "Liz", the 'Pommie' household help, whom Danny derides in the beginning, but for whom he feels great affection by the end of the book. The reader can relate to the unfamiliar feel of the place through Liz's reactions. We learn, along with her, what "everybody jam" is (a jam, such as apricot, that everybody likes), along with lots of other colloquialisms. I was most taken aback by the apparently still strong racism the ranchers feel toward the aborigines, or "gins". Some of the other mature themes are handled in a stark, no-nonsense way. Danny's sister (just fourteen years old) is pregnant, his older brother has died from a horrific accident on the ranch, a drought has decimated some of the cattle herds...You begin to wonder what else could go wrong for these people, but life goes on, and , as the book ends, these events just seem to be a part of the flow of time, coursing onward with new challenges to weather. In that way, the book feels very real. I think this would be a great book for discussion and for learning about another way of life on the other side of the world.
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