I received this book for free from Author in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.The Piper's Son by Melina Marchetta
Published by Viking Australia on March 1st 2010
Genres: Contemporary, Young Adult
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The award-winning author of Finnikin of the Rock and Jellicoe Road pens a raw, compelling novel about a family's hard-won healing on the other side of trauma.
Award-winning author Melina Marchetta reopens the story of the group of friends from her acclaimed novel Saving Francesca - but five years have passed, and now it's Thomas Mackee who needs saving. After his favorite uncle was blown to bits on his way to work in a foreign city, Tom watched his family implode. He quit school and turned his back on his music and everyone that mattered, including the girl he can't forget. Shooting for oblivion, he's hit rock bottom, forced to live with his single, pregnant aunt, work at the Union pub with his former friends, and reckon with his grieving, alcoholic father. Tom's in no shape to mend what's broken. But what if no one else is either? An unflinching look at family, forgiveness, and the fierce inner workings of love and friendship, The Piper's Son redefines what it means to go home again.
The thing about Marchetta is she gets teenagers. I mean, she really gets them. She understands them and writes about them in all their awkward, gangly, awesome, rough, raw, angry, passionate glory. That really is quite an achievement. I say that because I met her once. Out of the hundreds of things I could have done including:
1) Thanking her for the signed copies she sent me.
2) Begging her for an ARC of Quintana.
3) Telling her how much she’s inspired me and how much I adore everything she writes.
What I ended up doing was grinning like a fool for ten minutes while she chatted to my friend.
But I have to say, she’s not some hip young thing out partying every weekend. What I’m saying is that I suspect she may be a knitter. What I’m saying is that she’s probably not driving around in a pimped out car drag-racing teenagers and smoking illicit substances is what I’m saying. You never know, she could be. But I don’t think she is.
But in a sea of YA that infantilizes teenagers by making their characters so mature, responsible, pure, thoughtful, PURE creatures who don’t swear or smoke and maybe drink but certainly don’t get enormously intoxicated and try to climb onto their friend’s roof naked to crow in the morning. Not that…errr, I’ve ever done that. Sometimes teenagers wake up, sniff their armpits, opt for deodorant instead of shower, put on yesterday’s socks after a smell test, stumble to school still somewhat inebriated and try to appear awake for the day. Sometimes they ride in cars with boys and there are absolutely no negative consequences to show the reader how horrifying such things are. That’s right. No HIV, no pregnancy, no STD’s, no bitter heartbreak and having the whole school torment them. Sometimes they yell and scream at their parents because they shouldn’t HAVE to do the washing up/take out the garbage/wash their pits/take off that make.
Certainly not all of Marchetta’s teenage characters are like that, but I’m so relieved that she’s not afraid to go there for the characters that are. Tom is kind of messed up. A lot. And he does naughty-no-no things and says naughty-no-no things and makes a lot of stupid, irresponsible mistakes. And I love him for it. He has a strong voice and character that makes this book shine. I love the rich content in every one of Marchetta’s books – but this one hit very close to home for me. I don’t think I could ever express myself as well as Ceridwen did – but I felt a very similar way. Tom, you horrible, wonderful, mess of a boy!
Because Tom’s story is so much closer to what my teenage years were like than any of the YA books in which the teenage girl cooks and cleans for her single parent while solving mysteries and dating responsibly. And then Marchetta has to go be fantastic and make me cry and weep because she always takes you to that point where you GET IT. You so absolutely GET EVERYTHING.
Me after everyone one of her damn books!
I wish more authors had the propensity to make you feel like Marchetta does. To trust their audience more with deeper stories. What I love most is that Marchetta takes her teens seriously. She doesn’t short change them by writing what she thinks teens should be like or how they should act or respond to circumstances. She writes people, not characters and that is worth so much more than a thousand Bella Swans.