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Friday, March 04, 2016

Just Finished Reading... The Sidekicks by Will Kostakis. Melbourne:Penguin, 2016

Sydney schoolboy Isaac Roberts is dead. His three best friends have been called into the deputy principal's office to be informed. The thing is, they're not each other's best friends. They don't even particularly like each other. So they can't mourn together.

Isaac meant something different to each of them. To him, they were just his "team" - the Swimmer, the Rebel and the Nerd. Each of them gets to tell his own version of the same story, of events leading up to, and after Isaac's death. 

The Swimmer is Ryan. Ryan is the school's swimming champion, the "Olympic hopeful." Swimming keeps him going. He isn't particularly friends with anyone, but Isaac was supportive to him about his personal problem, that of coming out of the closet. Ryan's boyfriend Todd is not happy about his hanging back. 

The Rebel is Harley. Harley is the kind of person who can arrange to get you stuff through a third person. He was doing that for Isaac, whom he calls Zac. And he was there for part of the evening when Zac fell off a boat. He is wondering whether the death was his fault, whether Zac fell because he was high at the time. And he's grieving himself, for his relationship with a mother who left him and his Dad and scooted off back to the U.S. 

The Nerd, Miles, gets some of the best lines. My favourite is "I do not trust anyone who leaves home without a book."  Miles has allowed Isaac to talk him into running an illicit essay-writing business for some of his schoolmates, with Isaac as his front man. It has paid very well. But he was doing this to bond with Isaac; after Isaac's death, he is obsessively playing Isaac's footage from a film he had made for the school's film festival. In fact, his entire section is written using film script description. "Int. Classroom. Morning." 

I have been reading Will Kostakis's books since his first one, Loathing Lola, was published. Here is my review. Each of the three novels I've read was different. The first was about the absurdities of our fifteen minutes of fame, through a teenage girl's sudden popularity after she lands her own TV reality show. The irony was, the young author would go on to work for Big Brother. The second, The First Third, was about family and friendship and looking after each other, not to mention being Greek, in a funny, touching story that included a few autobiographical elements. (In fact, one of our students fell in love with the hero's grandmother and worried the real one might be dead, but she rang while Will was talking to my book club, much to the girl's delight).

And now we have one with three very different boys who must learn to be true to what they are, a lesson they learn during the grieving process. 

Will Kostakis's books are gentle and wise - and each one is different. For what it's worth, I think he is, in some ways, Australia's answer to David Levithan, another YA writer whose books are gentle and wise, and each one different from the last. (I should add that when some girls who had loved Dash And Lily's Book Of Dares asked me for more Levithan, I had to explain that if they wanted another Dash And Lily, they were out of luck!). Well, David Levithan has never written about being Greek and has a tendency to collaborate on books, but my point stands. 

I think this novel may well end up on some award short lists. It might be a bit late for this year's CBCA awards, but we'll see. 


Pamela said...

I read online about his school visit being canceled at a Catholic school because he came out publicly. I immediately bought the only book available to me in the U.S. for our collection. The Sidekicks isn't up for purchase yet. My teens are always checking out David Levithan books, so I think that's a great comparison.

Sue Bursztynski said...

Which book did you buy? Probably The First Third? It's a wonderful book! The kids at my school loved it. Do read it yourself! I'd be delighted to host his launch of that new book if he lived in Melbourne. Honestly, the way that school reacted you'd think it was porn! The boy in the story is just trying to nerve himself to come out, that's all. He hasn't even gone past kissing with his boyfriend. And he's only a third of the book. But the school said their parents would object, so that's that. They said he could come on another visit if he agreed to talk about his other books. He said no thank you.
I emailed him the link to this post and he said he's shared it with David Levithan, who told him there was a sequel to Dash And Lily coming out in October. Nice!