Life is tough for Primo, and about to get even tougher. Crashing his father's prized red Bambino Fiat 500 is just the first in a series of ill-fated events - events which are inexplicably intertwined with a dead dog in the still of the night...
Year 12 boy Primo is in trouble. He needs money to pay for the repair of the damaged car he shouldn't have been driving, and getting hold of it means doing something truly stupid that he wouldn't normally dream of doing. In its turn, that leads to further problems. Those he cares about could be hurt.
Then there's his father, who once had a workshop, now gathering dust as he spends his time in a home, wandering in the past and mostly not recognising the family members who visit him. He had let down his family with his womanising and now Primo must overcome his anger and resentment at the old man before there can be any healing.
This is a novel about growing up. Primo's journey to self understanding begins with understanding the people in his life, even being able to feel empathy for the old man who left his home in Italy with a dream that never quite worked out, to understand his mother's actions better - and then to take responsibility for his own actions.
Luckily for him, he has a kind and decent friend, Tone, willing to help even when Primo stuffs up, and a girlfriend, Maddie, who may not feel they're an item any more, but is willing to listen - and to discuss.
There are some touches of humour scattered through the book; I particularly liked the assumption many people in the novel have that Tone's Dad, a pizzeria owner, is some sort of Mafioso thug, a perception the father is happy to encourage because it's convenient(he served time in jail, but for a white collar crime).
You'll have to decide if the ending is happy or not. It's certainly positive in the hero's growth.
Melbourne flavours this novel, especially Fitzroy, gentrified on one end and poor and crumbling on the other. The author's Italian background comes through clearly, as does his voice, the latter almost literally - having heard Archie Fusillo speak, I could almost hear his voice reading the novel aloud! This might make an interesting audiobook if Ford Street ever has the resources to arrange it, but only if the author reads it himself.
There aren't enough good books for boys being published and it is always a pleasure to find one.
I'd recommend this for boys from about fourteen up.