'The best books, reviewed with insight and charm, but without compromise.'
- author Jackie French

Monday 26 March 2018

Review: Mallee Boys

Mallee Boys is a sweet, poignant novel set in the Mallee and tells the story of two brothers, Red and Sandy, the year after tragically losing their mum.

Told in first person, with alternating chapters from each point of view, the reader gets a real sense of country and farm life from a teenage male perspective. 

Red is 18 and prone to bursts of anger, unresolved issues and guilt festering since his mother’s death. He’s left school and works hard on the farm. Needing to escape constant reminders of his mum, he starts hanging out with Ryan, a shady character, and everything Red knows is insidiously threatened.

Sandy, 15, is shy, accident-prone, introspective and loves reading. He's smart, does well at school and has good friends although his mum’s loss is always on his mind. Sandy’s goal is to get a scholarship to a private school in Adelaide, complete his senior years there and become an engineer.

The boys are raised by their father Tom, who is blokey, affable and loving. He’s doing his best to run the farm and support his boys – even if he cooks the same meals most nights. Tom tries to communicate and show his sons he loves them, but most of the time he doesn’t know what they’re up to. They don’t open up much, but have each other’s back when it counts.

Mallee Boys has insightful references to isolated country life, living off the land, the local footy club, first loves and how men deal with grief, loss and stress. It’s also about reaching crossroads in life, burdened by loss, and shines a light for males in isolated communities to communicate better.

There’s some funny lighter moments involving a squatter snake named The Duke and Tom’s involvement in the annual town play. Some darker moments involving Ryan are foreshadowed, and his story plays out accordingly.
Mallee Boys was the recipient of the 2016 Adelaide Festival Unpublished Manuscript Award and is a 2018 Children’s Book Council of Australia Notable book.

Title: Mallee Boys
Author: Charlie Archbold
Publisher: Wakefield Press, $24.99
Publication Date: November 2017
Format: Paperback
ISBN: 9781743055007
For ages: 12+
Type: Young Adult Fiction