Using the language of teens and colouring the world from their perspective, Australian author, Brendan Lawley doesn’t hold back in Bonesland, a very raw, sometimes bitterly honest yet insightful, funny and ultimately hopeful debut novel.
Ben aka Bones is in year ten and can’t wait to escape Banarang, the dead-end small town where he lives. He’s hoping that Melbourne city, vibrant and diverse will be his refuge after school. In typical small-town style, Banarang doesn’t have a lot to offer teenagers by way of entertainment.
Aside from the limitations that come with living in a small town, Bones has also been dealing with the separation of his parents, a growing sense of anxiety and intense germ phobia. He has his mates to keep an eye on him but the arrival of American exchange student, Naya changes everything.
Naya, is a wonderfully dynamic character who loves life and is energised by all that she wants to contribute to make the world a better place. Often filling her Instagram feed with pictures of her volunteer work and over the top inspirational quotes, Bones is at first cynical about Naya’s intentions to save the world. Yet the more he spends time with her the more he realises she is sincerely interested in him and Banarang.
Naya challenges the lethargy and hopelessness that has engulfed Bones and reminds him that he was once excited by achieving things, learning and doing the right thing.
Bonesland takes a gritty look at the stark realities of teenage life in a small town – the bullying, fighting to be different and the search for real friendship. There’s hip-hop, drugs, parties, selfies and sex. The underlying message is a challenge to teens to think about what they could achieve in their lives.
To fully complete the experience, Brendan Lawley has created a play list to accompany the book that you can hear via his publisher’s website.
The language and discussion topics of Bones and his friends are eye opening and you may want to have a read yourself before handing it over to your 16+.
Shortlisted for the 2017 Text prize and appearing at Melbourne Writer’s Festival schools program later this year, the release of Boneslandis just the beginning for this exciting new writer.