Apr. 21st, 2013

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First book off the ranks in Project READ ALL THE YA. I actually finished this book a week ago, I've just been too busy to blog.

All I Ever Wanted

Mim Dodds is 16 years old and determined not to grow up like her mother. Which is understandable, given her mother is an overweight drug-dealer who lives in the crime-and-poverty ridden neighbourhood of Tudor Court. Mim has a set of rules - no alcohol, no swearing, stay in school - that she hopes will keep her on the path out. But the rules are tested when her brothers are arrested, and Mim has to collect a package of drugs for her mum from their supplier.

This is YA as gritty realism. Mim is surrounded by drugs, teen sex, alcoholism and domestic violence. Mim's rules protect her from the worst of the bad stuff, but her friends and family members suffer. And Mim's adherence to the rules breaks down once the package is stolen by the boy she has a crush on, Jordan Mullen. Mim tries to get the package back by befriending his younger sister, Kate, and enters some morally grey areas.

(Not too grey, though -- Mim is hardly an innocent, but I did notice that all the really gritty stuff like drug taking and teeange sex happens to her friends, one step removed from our protagonist. Oddly, it made me think of Katniss in The Hunger Games, who only kills the "evil" contestants in the arena. Where are the boundaries in YA, I wonder? Do we still need our heroines to be morally pure?)

I loved reading this book. The prose is conversational but tight. For a slim book it has a large cast of characters, but each one is deftly and distinctively drawn. And there are some striking images, like Mim's secret hiding place in an abandoned railway tower, where she has written her rules out on each of the steps she climbs to reach the top of the tower.

My only real disappointment was minor spoilers about the ending... )

A minor quibble with what is a great read.

It's an exciting book, and it got me excited about the possibilities of YA. I'm looking forward to reading Vikki Wakefield's second novel, Friday Brown, once I've worked through the Project list.

~

Some quick notes for analytical purposes: Female protagonist. First person, present tense. Contemporary setting. Australian author. Brooding bad-boy crush, but no romantic triangle.

~

Next book in the Project is Alison Croggon's Black Spring, a retelling of Wuthering Heights with witches and wizards. I'm about 100 pages in at the moment, and so far it's craggy and gothic and wonderful.

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I was going to save my money and not see any Comedy Festival shows this year.

11 shows is almost the same as none, right?

This is what I saw:

Dave Bloustein - Grand Guignol
Humourous horror stories from this clever stand-up. Sadly, opening night issues meant we saw the potential, rather than the polished show.

Hannah Gadsby - Nakedy Nudes
A lecture on the nude in Western art, and how it shifted from the heroic male nude to perving on naked females. Fun, if not quite up to the standard of Gadsby's stand-up.

La Foulard
Character-based clowning, about a pretentious artist and her characters who rebelled. Some great physical work, if some bits felt a bit too long.

Daniel Kitson - Work in Progress
A late night show where Kitson worked on some new material. Patchy, as to be expected from a work in progress, but Kitson is almost always great.

Josie Long - Romance and Adventure
I love Josie Long dearly. Her originally whimsical act has grown more political recently as she gets angrier and angrier with Britain's Conservative government. But she hasn't quite found the way to turn that anger into humour yet. Always a pleasure to see her, but also a teeny bit disappointing.

Lawrence Leung - Part-Time Detective Agency
Leung's shows all have the same format, but it's a solid format. Inspired by Sherlock, Leung sets out to solve the mystery of who played a prank on him at his 21st birthday party. Nerdy, self-effacing fun.

Splendid Chaps
A live recording of this podcast about Doctor Who. This episode was about comedy in Doctor Who. Special guests were Adam Richards and Josie Long. Fun. But no one mentioned Dougals Adams, or Terry Nation's start in writing comedy, and Josie Long didn't get to speak enough.

(Of course, I think Josie Long should be the next companion. Or even better: the next Doctor. So I may be biased.)

Lisa-Skye - Songs My Parents Taught Me
Lisa-Skye contrasts the romance between two hedonistic twenty-somethings in 1970's Footscray with her own taste for drugs, kinky sex, and glitter.

Darkness and Light
Different guest comedians each night tell true stories about dark times in their lives. Lots of stories about depression and bullying. Telia Neville talked about the loneliness of the Festival performer. Ben McKenzie talked about his estranged father. Honest, moving, one of my festival highlights.

Dave Callan - A Little Less Conversation
A tall bearded Irishman dancing to Beyoncé. Very silly. Absolutely hilarious.

Hannah Gadsby - Happiness is a Beside Table
Gadsby, one of Australia's best stand-ups, talked about her crippling body image issues, and the simple pleasures of owning her own furniture. Always hilarious, usually the best show I see at the Fest, Gadsby's show this year was inspirational. I've never heard a crowd cheer a neck-to-knee bathing suit so hard.

~

I think, once again, I'd say Hannah Gadsby's was the best show I saw this year, just based on the mix of depth and humour. She really is incredibly funny.

But I'd also say Darkness and Light was the most interesting show I saw. Partly that's because I thought Ben's story about his father was fantastic: honest and moving and very well told. I've seen Ben do a lot of less serious shows, and it was great to see a really different side to his work.

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