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Monday, January 07, 2008

Review: Teeth Marks By Rose Moxham

It starts with a bicycle crash. Nick, the crash victim, ends up on his back in the local hospital, remembering how it all happened, in flashback, and getting used to the strange variety of characters with whom he is sharing a ward.

When two boys from the city go to work on a farm for a few months, all they have in mind is a working holiday and a little money before starting university. Nick’s friend, Robbie, had grown up in the district and knows everyone. He also has a way with girls. Nick hasn’t, but when he meets Robbie’s childhood friend, Jude, who sings rockabilly and has two dogs, he is immediately attracted. The two start a relationship.

But Jude has a problem - one about which everyone in town knows but which nobody tells him. Jude is desperate to find someone who will be true to her and hopes that she can get commitment from Nick before confessing the problem to him.

So, what do you do when someone who might come down with a genetically-inherited medical condition which will leave them helpless and demented wants you to commit yourself to them and you’re only nineteen, far too young to be able to make such a serious decision? At the age of nineteen, thirty, when the illness might begin, seems a lifetime away. It certainly seems that way to Nick, who is a young nineteen and needs some growing up.

In the hospital ward, unable to move, he does some growing up and manages to find sympathy for people he would never have mixed with in his regular life., and, when he leaves, makes sure he does something to help some of them.

Despite the action-packed opening, it took me a while to get into the story. Most children and teenagers simply won’t take trouble over a book if it doesn’t capture their attention immediately. And there’s the question of this book’s intended audience - the main character is a boy, but to me it feels more like a girls’ book, about relationships and coming-of-age.

Still, it’s worth sticking with; in the end, it’s a gentle tale, sad but with a positive ending. And it isn’t the standard “coming-of-age” tale - the reader can wonder what he or she would do if they fell for someone who was going to lose their health and wanted you to look after them, ten years from now. It might just be an interesting topic for class discussion when, as is likely, this book is set on the school English syllabus.

Worth checking out.

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