Good Oil – Laura Buzo


“From the moment 15-year-old Amelia begins work on the checkout at Woolworths she is sunk, gone, lost…head-over-heels in love with Chris. Chris is the funny, charming, man-about-Woolies, but he’s 21, and the 6-year difference in their ages may as well be 100. Chris and Amelia talk about everything from Second Wave Feminism to Great Expectations and Alien but will he ever look at her in the way she wants him to? And if he does, will it be everything she hopes?”

The majority of books for teenagers are not written by teenagers. A funny thing happens to people once they leave their teens, the older they get the more they forget what it’s really truly like to be a teenager and this shows in a lot of authors’ writing. This is not the case in Laura Buzo’s Good Oil.

Amelia Hayes has just gotten a job at the supermarket and it doesn’t take long before she gets a crush on her charming (and much older than her) staff trainer, Chris Harvey. While Amelia is trying to find her identity and place in life, Chris is struggling to find the meaning in his life. The story switches perspective between the two as we watch their friendship grow and as Chris changes his view of Amelia from a protégé/little sister type to someone he could consider as a potential girlfriend.

Amelia is in the 10th grade and to her, boys are the brainless creatures who push her around on the school bus and who are otherwise only after one thing. Chris is in his final year at university and battling the girlfriend drought while he still licks his wounds over his previous relationship one year prior. For her the supermarket job is a way of gaining independence, for him though, it’s a dead end.

Amelia is unlike any girl Chris knows and is always amazed at how her mind works, she makes him question his own thoughts and the way he thinks. They exchange letters of things that they hate, while Amelia thinks her mum has been screwed over by feminism, Chris hates the injustice of people getting everything in life while he struggles at the bottom.

It’s not hard to relate to either of these characters, not because it’s written in the first person or because they’re similar to you in age, but because at some point, you were them. It’s what makes this story feel so incredibly real because  you were (or still are) Amelia, you were friends with an Amelia, you were Chris or you were in love with a Chris, these characters are so real they might as well be people you already know who just happen to be in a book.

It goes without saying that this is a well written book. The story is engaging and the dual narration adds depth to the storyline and has so many subtle details that come together to create this image of what being a young adult is really like, not what people think it’s like. Also, it’s the kind of book that makes you feel just a bit smarter for having read it, it really gets you thinking. It contrasts the different lifestyles of families, friends and social classes as well as making you consider the issue of feminism, without making you feel like you’re reading a textbook.

This isn’t your typical love story; it’s honest, bittersweet and insightful with the characters lending you their lives to let you look into your own.

Pages: 283
Publication Date: August 2010

Teaser Quote: “Penny has suggested to me a few times that I might like to get a grip on reality. You know, accept that getting together with Chris is unlikely in the extreme and stop torturing myself. I wish I could. It would make sense.”

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