Fourteen year old nerd-boy Dan Cereill is not quite coping with a reversal of family fortune, moving house, new school hell, a mother with a failing wedding cake business, a just-out gay dad, and an impossible crush on Estelle, the girl next door. His life is a mess, but for now he's narrowed it down to just six impossible things... Goodreads.
Review -Dan's life is upended with the revelation that his father is gay. His parents' marriage dissolves, his mother is devastated, the family business goes kaput and he has to change houses and schools. The one bright spot is Estelle, the girl who lives next door and for whom Dan falls into immediate admiration (and somewhat stalker like tendencies.)
Teendom is all about life transitions whether emotional, physical, hormonal or situational and Wood plays this with subtle grace. Dan's got a sensitive soul buried beneath his outward frustration and it shines through beautifully. There aren't enough stories about teen boys and their mothers and Six Impossible Things finds itself added with Boofheads (Mo Johnson) for it's authentic, pithy and always heartfelt depiction of this essential relationship. Both Dan and his mother were terribly hurt by there family's dissolution but he's trying to move one while she's left sabotaging her grieving process on several levels.
Dan's socially awkward in the best way possible - smart, completely unaware of his appearance and unable to stop staring at the object of his admiration. He's completely frank about his deficiencies in high school as he teeters between moments of maturity and the expected bouts of teen hysteria.
Wood has crafted a beautifully realised sphere of characters that colour Dan's experiences with humour, truth, bloodshed and the occasional leg up. There's a depth here that makes Six Impossible Things feel substantially longer than the two hundred and forty-four pages would suggest. Dan's such a good kids but that never stops him from being interesting. In fact, it was refreshing to revel in a story about a kid that makes the occasional poor decision but it ultimately a caring individual with a good, strong head on his shoulders. It is Dan's honesty that really grabbed me. He can't help but note his shortcomings even in the midst of a snotty retort to his mother and that level of self awareness was the source of great humour and even greater relatability.
This is Fiona Wood's first jaunt into young adult literature territory and I am so glad she's joined the party. Her adults are fully realised, never falling into convenient archetypes or being conveniently absent. They actively guide Dan in a myriad of ways whether they (or even Dan) realise this. His friends are delightful - especially that of Fred and Lou. They are two people destined to be together if nothing else. It is also refreshing to read a story that revolves around acceptance, as opposed to popularity. Dan knows who is worthy the time but he gives people the benefit of the doubt. He might be judgemental but he possess a true gentlemanly quality that many people don't deserve to be the beneficiary of. The bullying that is directed at Dan is particularly affecting due to his current state of vulnerability and the way in which he chooses to confront it. Dan's admirable and relatable and a fantastic character to eavesdrop on throughout this story,
What struck me the most about Six Impossible Things were Dan's moments of clarity in the somersaulting amongst his unhinged home life and swirling emotions. He (and by extension Wood) know what is important. Family, friends and a good sense of humour and this book has plenty of all three.
Highly recommended. A truly impressive debut.
Published: August 1, 2010
Format: Paperback, 244 pages
Publisher: PanMacmillan Australia