The wind felt perilous. It numbed his ears and pinned his mouth back into a crazy grin. All this speed – it felt good. He didn’t bother with the brakes, gave up trying to get a grip on the pedals. He spread his legs and let the steep incline carry him, hurtling past those stagnant shops, past the sleeping homeless guy, overtaking a car. The dogs free, barking and running after him. They loved him, even if Jude didn’t.
Nick is nineteen years old. He and his best friend, Robbie, are heading west to spend the summer fruit-picking. Beginning in the middle, when Nick rides his bicycle down a hill and ends up in traction in the local hospital, Teeth Marks reveals the past in flashbacks. Slowly, the reader is introduced to his friends and the other mostly long-term residents of the hospital. We meet blue-eyed Robbie, aspiring manager Max, dark-haired Jude and her father Bruno. Then there are the hospital people: non-speaking Al and his daily visitor Lindy; the not-so-sunny Nurse Sunni; Eric and his wife Iris. Nick’s arms, leg and heart are broken and he vents his anger on anyone who comes near. Five weeks he’ll be in traction, five long weeks. Nick’s stay in the hospital helps to mend more than his broken bones.
Teeth Marks is about freedom, hope, love, pain, consequences and more. It is a road trip for Nick, even when he’s trussed up in the Orthopaedic ward and can only move one of his legs. Despite the weighty subjects and challenging structure, there is plenty of humour here, some rockabilly music and the hard work that is fruit-picking. There are rich pictures of friendship and its many shapes. A rewarding read for mid- to upper-secondary readers.
Teeth Marks, by Rose Moxham
Allen & Unwin 2007