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Bloody Shambles

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Vladimir Nabokov, Brian Boyd
Pale Fire
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Progress: 99 %
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Snake Bite

Snake Bite - Christie Thompson This one's a creeper. It totally took me by surprise..I bought this book for two reasons:1) It's a contemporary YA novel set in Canberra. This never happens. Canberra is only ever written about in the context of politics or local history.2) The comparison to Puberty Blues on the back cover blurb. I’m not much of a YA fan in general, but Puberty Blues is a sentimental favourite of mine for its gritty, realistic portrayal of growing up in Australia. As it turns out, the story is set in Kambah - a notably dodgy suburb of Canberra, in which I lived for several years. The main character, Jez, is living just a few streets away from my old home. I can't tell you how strange it was to be reading about local icons such as: • the kitschy sheep sculptures on Drakeford Drive (which people like myself used to dress up in costumes for shits & giggles)• the James Court Apartments (which was the height of bogan sophistication if you wanted to party in the city and not have to worry about getting back home or getting kicked out for being rowdy. I threw my partner's 30th birthday there)• the Kambah Village shops, where a single mum once tried to pick up my gay flatmate at the counter, while the checkout chick was screaming at her to go home and tell her daughter she was going to get her head kicked in. This happened while her small child calmly stared up at my flatmate as if to say, "Are you my new daddy?"Anyone who has lived in Canberra will probably find it worth the recommended retail price just to see these details in print, but there is much more to the book.From the beginning, it's clear that Thompson knows her subject matter. There is the ring of absolute truth to her characters and the way in which they live. It's a warts and all coming-of-age story, where the "warts" include multigenerational poverty, drugs, petty jealousies, immature parenting and sexual predators. Anyone who has ever lived on the wrong side of the tracks will instantly recognise this as being authentic. I’m not sure how it will translate to readers from other countries, but from an insider perspective, this is as realistic a portrayal of mainstream, low-income Australian culture as I have ever seen. For the first half of the book, it seemed to me that this was all there was going to be – a snapshot more than a story. In the end though, a narrative does form, and I really came to care about the characters and what would become of them. Since I’m hardly in the target demographic, I’d consider that a win!Watching the film Puberty Blues when I was younger first gave me the idea that even lives like the ones I saw around me were “worthy” of being shown on screen. That came as a revelation at the time, when all I ever saw on screen were people living more.. sanitised lives than mine. Somehow that film legitimised my own culture for me. I hope this book can do the same for people playing Goon of Fortune today.**************************[posted before reading] A YA novel set in Canberra? A title font that gives you seizures? I'm IN!