Thursday 19 February 2009

Boofheads - Mo Johnson

Summary - Ed, Steve and Tom are lifelong mates but for the first time since pre-school, the ‘three amigos’ are drifting apart. Ed’s high hopes for his football career with the Bombers’ Youth Squad have come crashing down to earth and Steve has become totally self-obsessed. Tom has become an agony aunt for a teen-girl magazine to prove a point to (and maybe even impress) the hottest and most hated girl in school but what will happen to their once strong friendship?

Review -
Boofheads was another book that I chose based on the cover. Not because it was pretty (like Finding Darcy, Something Beautiful) but because the title made me chuckle. I do have to admit to liking the cover though, Australian cover artists are a pretty gifted lot.

I had no expectations from this book other than reading a novel by an Australian (via Scotland) author. What grabbed me, besides the name, was that the novel centred on three Aussie boys who have been long time friends. A male perspective in a contemporary coming of age story isn’t something that is tremendously common in YA, although I argue that the pink covers aren’t as widespread as I sometimes whinge about either. But back to the book...

Tom, Casey and Ed have been peas in a pod since they were little tackers and now things are beginning to change. Casey’s being distant, Ed’s immersed in jockdom and Tom’s trying to make do. What I loved about this story is that it didn’t romanticise what boys talk about when they are together or even the language they use. This doesn’t mean that I encourage this colourful language but it is authentic. Teenage boys very rarely resemble the sparkly vampire that so many are acquainted with. They possess an amazing ability to forgive quickly, to make the wrong decisions based on a laugh and not actually talk about anything. But they can be amazingly supportive, resilient and insightful in amongst the grunts.

What I found was that this book covered some important issues in a completely authentic and earnest way. From Casey’s family issues, Ed’s pressure to conform and Tom’s need to be viewed as more, I really found myself involved in the story. Tom’s an engaging protagonist, he’s arguably got the easiest lot in life but he’s got a stronger sense of self. At one point his friends reveal that he wasn’t included in a particularly mean stunt as he’s “...a safety player” (aka someone with a sense of decency). One particular aspect of the story that I really liked were his interactions with his mother. Often a YA protagonist will have most of their interactions with the same gender parent (as is common in real life) but I enjoyed seeing Tom try and help his mother out while proving himself as more knowledgeable too. At one point he notes, “I...inhaled the familiar smell of her perfume. I felt like I was five again. I love how she can always make me feel that way.” He loves her and that’s apparent throughout the story and motivates some of his questionable decision making.

I got really angry at some of the characters by the end of the novel. But at no point did I believe that their actions weren’t understandable. One scene at a party, where Tom has a choice between doing the right thing or walking away uninjured, stayed with me. I am positive that this is a situation that many boys have been in, girls too and it stuck with me.

Mo Johnson has written a great book here. I was struck by the feedback the cover and summary received when I posted it as part of my ‘In My Mailbox’ entry over the weekend.
What I can say is though I bought it for shallow reasons; I came away with a better understanding of the problems teen boys face and a greater sense of hope in them as well. The themes in this book are organic ranging from family facades, single parents, sexual identify, lust and partying. I think it is interesting that for me that what I gravitated towards the most was the relationship between a working mother and her not-so-clueless son.

If you want a book with a great sense of humour, interesting Aussie-isms, authentic teen male characterisation and a great read then this book is worth checking out.

Published: 2008
Format: Paperback, 267 pages
Published: Walker Books
Origin: Australia
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Mo Johnson's Website

Mo will soon be joining me as a Spotlighted Author, keep an eye out!


Shooting Stars Mag said...

I want it! I do think the title is amusing, and the cover is awesome like you said! I like how the boys look real, you know?

I don't know, I love these type of stories and I'd love to read it. Is it available in the US at all?


Adele said...

I am not sure about American availability. I do know that Alexa Young is getting me to mail it to her lol. I will find out for you.

It's seriously a great read and Mo's eager to come aboard SS Persnickety Snark so I am excited.

Unknown said...

I guess this means I'll be getting to read Boofheads soon! Wahoo. It sounds like a lovely read. Can't wait. :) xo

Sandy Fussell said...

I love this book too. It has one of my all time favourite first lines. Change tiptoed into our lives with her eyes down, like a shy chick coming late to class. From there on it just gets better!