Louisa can’t believe she has just been named employee of the month. She already struggles to balance her studies, night shifts at the hospital, her dependent mother and this supermarket job – now she’s been made a sitting duck. Adam is not impressed when his Dad tells him he’s got him a job – at the local supermarket. He doesn’t want to do anything except watch television. Why would he want a job? Still, it shouldn’t be too hard to get himself sacked.
Shelf Life has an unusual format which teen readers will love. Each chapter is a self-contained story focusing on a different employee in the supermarket. From Chloe the promiscuous check-out chick, to the disappearing frozen foods assistant, from managers to shelf-stackers, the whole microcosm of the supermarket is explored. Characters come and go, as do the customers, but the two central ones – Louisa and Adam – keep reappearing as they move towards getting to know each other.
Each chapter represents an aisle on the supermarket – stationery, fruit and veg, frozen foods, meat, hardware and more. There are also smaller chapters in between some of the ‘aisles’ for other parts of the store – the tearoom, accounts, the loading bay and so on.
Corbet’s style is casual yet sharp – he has a keen eye for the world around him, and his characters are very real. Whilst the story meanders up and down through the aisles, readers will find themselves with a trolley full of insights, laughs and experiences.
Shelf Life, by Robert Corbet
Allen & Unwin, 2004