This book was equal parts aching and powerful, and such a good read.
It will stay with you. Just…that warmth of the ending. The power of the messages it delivered, the hope and love to queer teens and Black teens. There’s a deep raw authenticity to #ownvoices stories, and having a gay Indigenous Australian YA on the shelves is so important (and I need to search out more of them).
The story reads like a slice of life. It’s set in those hazy days just after Christmas and before New Years, when life is paused and the days are long and hot, and the future stretches unmanageable. Jackson is seventeen and not confident in his skin. He refuses to think about the part of him that is attracted to boys and he just wants to fit in with his community. The community on Mish is very tight-knit and Jackson connects and respects his Koori culture and elders — but he doesn’t know what he might lose if he isn’t the person they expect him to be.
Then his aunt visits with a bunch of cousins …and an extra guest. Meet Tomas. Newly out of juvie and quiet and withdrawn, no family and no roots, just this kid trying to draw an indigenous superhero comic and keep his head down. And Jackson is 100% for ignoring him — except he can’t.
“I won’t tell you to do it, that decision has to come from you, but you should go to your elders. You should ask them about your country and your totem. Because that is your identity. A blackfella with no identity is a lost blackfella. He don’t know where he belongs.”
One thing I really loved with Jackson’s arc. The way he changed throughout the story was phenomenal. He felt so tight and on guard at the beginning, so cautious, and then by the end he was just tumbling into his true self and 😭 It was lovely. I adore reading stories where characters find peace. And support! There is such support here too (like that MOMENT with Kalyn okay at the end!!! KALYN is such a good egg of a cousin.)
Let us stay here holding each other for as long as it takes to be ready to walk out that door.
The plot is quite thoughtful (not really a rip-roaring pace, and I do think that suited the story). The atmosphere was so palpable. It was so!! Australian!!! I just read far too much INTL books we can tell 😂Because I loved the aesthetics of rural Australia and could feel the heat and the culture. It also delves deeply into what indigenous Australians face with everyday life: discrimination and systematic racism. It captures anger and love, dreams and stark truths of reality.
It’s the kind of story that will stick to you, and I’m definitely still thinking about it.
And I just really loved that ending. Also the relationships, the coming-of-age feels, the hope. It is about family and community, and the story isn’t about prettiness or hiding grittiness, it’s about life — bold and truth, about culture and family claimed and loved.
“There’s this shame,” he continues. “It’s took our people by the throat long ago. If we don’t let ourselves be who we are, love who we are, where we come from, it’ll strangle ya until you can’t fight it no longer. You know what I’m saying, Jackson?”
A funny and heart-warming queer Indigenous YA novel, set in a rural Australian community, about seventeen-year-old Jackson finding the courage to explore who he is, even if it scares him.
‘I don’t paint so much anymore,’ I say, looking to my feet.
‘Oh. Well, I got a boy who needs to do some art. You can help him out,’ Aunty Pam says, like I have no say in the matter, like she didn’t hear what I just said about not painting so much anymore. ‘Jackson, this is Tomas. He’s living with me for a little while.’
It’s a hot summer, and life’s going all right for Jackson and his family on the Mish. It’s almost Christmas, school’s out, and he’s hanging with his mates, teasing the visiting tourists, avoiding the racist boys in town. Just like every year, Jackson’s Aunty and annoying little cousins visit from the city – but this time a mysterious boy with a troubled past comes with them… As their friendship evolves, Jackson must confront the changing shapes of his relationships with his friends, family and community. And he must face his darkest secret – a secret he thought he’d locked away for good.