Amber Pash on Pink, by Pauline Luke

I wish
I was
a balloon too.

Rebecca’s life is pretty complicated. She has a brother she calls “Frog Face” who is always in trouble with somebody, a grandfather whose penchant for colour meditation means he dresses entirely in one colour each day and parents who are separated and seem intent on competing with each other. So when a gorgeous new guy turns up at school, she figures things are about to get a whole lot better.

Instead, though, Rebecca finds out just how complicated life can be. Her worst enemy “The Grasshopper” is after the new guy too, and another guy wants to take Rebecca out on a date. The next door neighbour thinks Frog Face needs to be disciplined and Mum is dating a mystery man. Worse is to come when Rebecca’s best friend Amber decides to run away and her grandmother dies. Rebecca has to wonder if things will ever get better.

Amber Pash on Pink is a novel which goes to the heart of what it is to be a teenager. Rebecca’s life is like a roller coaster and so are her emotions. Her voice is real, with author Pauline Luke exploring teen life without patronising and analysing.

Teens will love the format, with a mixture of diary-type entries, emails, poems, letters and even recipes.

A highly enjoyable first novel.

Amber Pash on Pink, by Pauline Luke
UQP, 2004

Saturday Morning Mozart and Burnt Toast, by Robert Newton

Wolfgang is a musician. Unlike the composer, Mozart, whose first name he has borrowed, he plays the trumpet. When he meets a violinist called Sal in an internet chat room, their love of music draws them together. Their friendship is instant.

When things get uncomfortable at home – thanks to his Mum’s new boyfriend, and his blowing a chance to play the national anthem at the football grand final, Wolfgang decides he’ll go to Tasmania and meet Sal for real.

However, running away from home proves to be much more of an adventure than Wolfgang bargains for. On board the ferry, he gets involved in a strange situation involving a Russian musician with amnesia, a missing chimpanzee, hired gangsters and more. And, in Tasmania, Sal proves to be less than receptive to his arrival. Wofgang starts to wonder whether this holiday was such a good idea.

Saturday Morning Mozart and Burnt Toast is zany, fast moving and action-packed. Possibly a little far-fetched, kids aged 12-16 will love its silliness and enjoy a plot with plenty of twists.

Good reading.

Saturday Morning Mozart and Burnt Toast, by Robert Newton
UQP, 2004

The True History of the Kelly Gang, by Peter Carey

Reviewed by Alex Marshall

The novel is a tour de force. Peter Carey tackles one of the great myths of Australia, the figure of Ned Kelly, by recreating the unlettered Irish Australian voice of the angry young man that was Ned Kelly.

Peter Carey’s Ned Kelly is a decent young man, idealistic and naive, who is pushed into rebellion by the bullying of the corrupt and incompetent local police force. He is hard working, clean living, optimistic, strong willed and free spirited. The style of writing appears odd at first but as you read you become used to his style. It is catchy.

Peter Carey does not downplay Ned Kelly’s criminal background, rather he puts this to the foreground. Much of the novel is taken up with his apprenticeship with a bushranger. He puts this behind him, however, until his family is persecuted by the local forces of property owners and police.

Sometimes the style of the writing seems too Australian, as if this book was written with an eye to a foreign readership. It is as if it has to be proved that Ned Kelly is an Australian character and not a second hand Jesse James. As the Nobel prize winning writer Wole Soyinke once pointed out a tiger does not need to proclaim its tigerness.

At other times it seems as if the Kelly gang is being Americanised. For example when members of the gang ride in white dresses a link is made with Irish vigilante gangs, but also there is an unspoken comparison with the American Ku-Klux-Klan.

Overall this is a powerful novel that puts a new spin on a great Australian folk legend.

The True History of the Kelly Gang, by Peter Carey
UQP, 2000

Alex Marshall is a freelance writer and reviewer. You can visit his webpage here.