Tuesday, 17 March 2009

The Beginner's Guide for Living / Lia Hills

Summary - Seventeen-year-old Will is in turmoil after the sudden death of his mother. His father drifts and his older brother, Adam, stays away from home. Isolated and angry, Will begins a search for the answers he craves. He uses his mum’s old camera to document the experience and scrambles to find an idea for which he can live and die. And as if things weren’t complicated enough, he falls for sixteen-year-old Taryn. His final exams are looming, but how will he get through the tangle of grief and philosophy, sex and love?

Review - The divine Simmone Howell mentioned that she was reading this little gem on her blog a few weeks back. I decided then that I needed to get my hands on it then.

Reading this book was like slipping into a tub full of warm words. They slip over you, sink in, resonate. Worm their way into your consciousness. It's not surprise that Hills is a poet because every line in this book was beautiful. Reading about this boy's exploration into his mother life and death, what the purpose of life truly is and the presence of hope was a moving experience.

Will's mum was killed when a drunk driver swerves into her and the men in her life are irrevocably changed. Will's dad starts drinking a lot, his brother moves home and Will falls in love. Picking up from the funeral should be discombobulating but it wasn't. I felt eerily calm the entire time I was reading this book. I am typically a sprinting reader, I put words away fast but this book made me slow down and soak it all in. Normally this would make me run, scaring the absolute stuffing out of me but I found myself savouring each philosophical thought, each experience, each revelation.

Hills' debut effort is poised, deliberate and lyrical in some places. the humour dips in and waves at you occasionally lightening the load - "I am wearing corporate socks to a party. The world has gone into a slow decline." Will's romantic endeavours with the soulful Taryn are both speedy and languid at the same time. I have also read the best description of a hangover, bar none (p. 147).

One scene that particularly grabbed me was the scene in which Will overhears his father speaking with his deceased mother. That scene grabbed me by the heart, rattled it around and smashed it on the floor. His pain and grief was exquisite.

I gather there is some debate whether this falls into the traditional YA criteria, despite its marketing as such. There is swearing and sex but I think the languid pace is what might detract some readers. That being said, it is an authentic depiction of a teen's grief and that there is not one way to grieve, only your own. And that is a message that should be universal.

Published: 2009
Format: Paperback,
Publisher: Text Publishing
Origin: Australia

UPDATE: Kirsty (Lia's publicist) informs me that the US release will be in 2010 through Farrar, Straus & Giroux. Thanks


Ana said...

Thanks Adele. This book looks SO good. I hope that it will eventually be published in the US.

Shooting Stars Mag said...

Oh gosh, I want this now. Sounds like my kind of book. All these awesome books are in Australia and the UK. So JEALOUS.


Anonymous said...

The book will be published in the US by Farrar, Straus & Giroux in 2010.

Kirsty (Lia's Australian publicist)

Shooting Stars Mag said...

Thanks Kirsty.

Ahh...why does 2010 just seem SO far away??


Sadako said...

This looks great. And I haven't read a YA novel with a guy protagonist in a while.

Wow, 2010 sounds like it's a year that should never arrive. It's like the future, but always.