Bring problems to us before they're too big to handle, the Principal advises Zo when she arrives at her new city school. But good advice isn't much help to Zo. Her Mum's still a workaholic, and her best friend is still a thousand miles away, back home. Zo soon teams up with Missy. She's cheeky, smart, a mean soccer player and believes in magic. She comes from a tough family that doesn't take crap from anyone and it shows. She's all muscles and attitude like a cattle dog on the warpath. Zo is more laid back - having money makes for a bigger comfort zone, even if you are fat and black. A showdown can't be far away when Zo and Missy's worlds collide. It's not a racial issue - or is it? At school or clubbing or stomping the bush on Kulcha Kamp, the girls are on edgy ground. But in the darkness of night, each of them finds a special magic of her own...
Melissa Lucashenko is an Australian writer of European and Goorie heritage. She received an honours degree in public policy from Griffith University in 1990. In 1997, she published her first novel Steam Pigs. It won the Dobbie Literary Award for Australian women’s fiction and was shortlisted for both the New South Wales Premier’s Literary Award and the regional Commonwealth Writers’ Prize. Steam Pigs was followed by the Aurora Prize–winning Killing Darcy, a novel for teenagers, and Hard Yards, which was shortlisted for the 2001 Courier-Mail Book of the Year and the New South Wales Premier’s Literary Award. Too Flash, a teenage novel about class and friendship, was released in 2002. Her latest novel is Mullumbimby published by UQP. Melissa lives between Brisbane and the Bundjalung nation.
Loved this book! Melissa Lucashenko's Too Flash is a stand out not only because of the fresh, original and feisty voices of its characters, particularly the main character Zo, but because it tackles some of the important questions around what it means to grow up as a young Aboriginal person in an Australian city.
Fifteen year old Zo is not happy when she has to move to Brisbane because of her Mum's new job. But at her new school she's soon befriended by Missy and her family. Before long, however, the differences between Missy's life and Zo's soon cause conflict between the two, and Zo must face the fact that the advantages she has taken for granted can seem almost impossible for others to attain.
I loved the dialogue in this book. It was authentic, sharp, funny and always rang true. Zo is a likeable character. She has lots of flaws, and often beats up on herself a little too much, but she is loyal, smart and willing to face her faults. The rest of the characters are also sympathetically drawn, and although Lucashenko clearly has a few lessons to teach through her story they are never shoved down the reader's throat.
The book has a good, fast pace, there is plenty of teen drama (but without the whiny angst) some sad moments and some confronting moments and a few laugh out loud moments as well. Those unfamiliar with any aspects of some Aboriginal culture (and even people with reasonable knowledge) will learn something about the First Australians, from both a teen's and elder's perspective, along the way. I really liked the use of Aboriginal words scattered throughought the book, and also that Lucashenko respects her readers enough that things unfamiliar words aren't always 'explained' but rather used in context so as a reader you learn a little about Aboriginal languages.
There are not a lot of young adult books that feature Aboriginal characters, and even less that are written by an Aboriginal writer. Hopefully this situation will continue to change as more Aboriginal writers find opportunities to publish. Too Flash was possibly one of the first published (back in early 2000s). It's a great read and an excellent example of contemporary Australian teen fiction. Highly recommended.
I don't read much YA these days (I consumed masses of it when I was part of the target audience) but there is something about well-written YA that leaves me feeling very satisfied. This book falls well into that category.
The characters were believable and recognisable, albeit different from me, and in very different situations. As is pretty typical in YA, the main character, Zo, doesn't quite feel like she belongs anywhere - she's Aboriginal, with roots in Blacktown and Cape York, but that's not where she lives; she doesn't speak much language; she lives alone with her white mother; they are now better off financially than her friends, although they have known want and hardship. At the beginning of the book they move from smalltown Dunstan to Brisbane, leaving Zo feeling even more adrift.
The narrative arc allows Zo to explore her friendships with Sione and Missy, to think deeply about prejudice and to start understanding how to rely on the support of the adults around her.
As noted above, the characters seem real, as does the dialogue - and I loved the scattering of language throughout the book. Zo is given enough room to move and grow and learn, but the events are not overly dramatic and you don't put the book down thinking "that would never happen". This is an extremely solid book for readers of any age.
A solid 4 to 4.5. This is a quick read, but a rather terrific find - an unpretentious Australian contemporary YA featuring urban Aboriginal characters and language, _and_ no romance. The book takes a pretty unflinching look at prejudice, poverty cycles, and crime, without being so in-your-face that it's unsuitable for young readers. Definitely recommended!
(Content note for a fair bit of fat talk. It's character self-talk that comes across as authentic, but could be ED trigger for some.)
Missy and Zo are two friends who are world's apart, but it is their spirituality and connection to the land that draws them together. Lucashenko explores the different aspects of Indigenous identity through the characters of Zo and Missy. This novel deals with body image, friendship, stereotypes, racism. It is a beautiful story with lots of heart about the way that our family and opportunities shape our lives and the people we become. I loved it.
The novel breaks stereotypes of the Flash Black, the authentic 'full blood', the city mob - and other quantifiers of blood that still prevail in contemporary Australia, and in a way prioritises the Law over white ways of seeing and engaging with Australia.
I was 15 in 2002, the same age as the protagonist the year this book was released.
Struggling to know who I am, where I belong, who is good, who is bad, what is right and wrong.
I really learnt so much from Zo, who is Aboriginal, and her mother is white, trying to navigate a new house, a new city, a new school and a new way of living. It's emotional, it hits hard, and packs a punch. It helps us understand how hard it is to navigate life as a 15 year old Aboriginal person.