If you like Melina Marchetta and Barry Jonsberg, you'll love Maria Boyd's novel about being in Year 11, being in trouble and being a good friend.
Maria Boyd has spent the better part of the past seven years working as a teacher in a Sydney boys high school, a job that ensured her, among other things, at least four belly laughs a day. Before that she was completing her Masters in Cultural Studies, and before that, she was travelling the world from her base in London. She has explored many different types of opportunities in her working life but nearly all of them have had something to do with young people and teaching. There is no coincidence in this - she enjoys and believes in them both. Maria lives in Sydney. WILL is her first novel.
Gr 8 Up-Will Armstrong is a popular, Year Eleven guitar-playing cutup at St. Andrew's College, a boys' high school in Sydney, Australia. When a dare goes wrong, he is punished by being assigned to work as a "musician and general dogsbody" for the musical staged by St. Andrew's and its sister school, Lakeside Girls. Will isn't, as he expects, deserted by his popular friends, although his Saturdays are now spent at rehearsals rather than at "footy" matches. The cringe-worthy choice of musical (The Boy Friend) gives him the chance to meet, albeit awkwardly, with a Lakeside girl, and he becomes a friend to and protector of Zachariah Cohen, who is in Year Seven and is affectionately known as "Freak." Will is quickly given a lot of responsibility (he is conducting all of the student musicians) and, for the most part, he rises to the occasion. Subplots surface: he refuses to discuss the death of his father, something that hints of a traumatic secret that is never quite explained. He must also examine more deeply his stereotypical views of how a gay student might look and behave. This interesting book, which, despite playing to the High School Musical crowd, doesn't focus on music, chronicles a young adult's growth toward maturity. The Australian spellings and slang ("whingeing," "cutting your grass," "dacked himself") will give pause to many readers, but the casual use of four-letter words is within keeping of many a 17-year-old's vocabulary.-Maggie Knapp, Trinity Valley School, Fort Worth, TX Copyright 2010 Reed Business Information.