Ironbark, by Barry Jonsberg

I’m thumping my hand against the dash, raising clouds of dust. The sound echoes in my head.
‘Against the law?’ I say. ‘Against the law? Well, I hate to say this, Gramps, but take a look around this ute…You’ve got about a million traffic violations right here and you talk to me about smokes and the law? This is insane.”
And that’s about all I remember.
Next thing, I’m surrounded by a grey cloud, my right leg is hurting like hell, there’s a thumping of blood in my temples and I’m limping down the track. The taste of dust is in my mouth. I hold onto my right thigh with both hands, but even so I’m going a fair clip. I don’t hear the ute behind me.

A holiday in the Tasmanian wilderness might be an adventure – but this is no holiday. In trouble with the police after yet another violent outburst, the sixteen year old protagonist is sentenced to time-out with his grandfather, who lives in an isolated shack in Tasmanian. For a city boy used to high tech gadgetry and the bustle of the city, living with a grandfather he doesn’t know and staying in a shack with no electricity is harsh. Harsher still are the demons he is forced to confront.

Ironbark is compelling reading, exploring the bond which develops between the troubled city boy and his seemingly out of touch grandfather, and the boy’s battle with an explosive temper – diagnosed as Intermittent Explosive Disorder.

Jonsberg creates a character who is likeable, in spite of his problems and his obvious personality flaws. Aside from the violence, the boy’s dealings with an absent girlfriend, particularly, show him to be self-centred, and he initially shows little interest in how his grandfather might feel about being given charge of a troubled teen, but these flaws make him realistic. He is not just a misunderstood teen – he is a boy with problems and flaws like most teens – except that one of his problems impacts severely on his victims. It is his need to overcome this violent streak which drives the plot.

A page turner.


Ironbark, by Barry Jonsberg
Allen & Unwin, 2008

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