Tag Archives: feminism

Good Oil – Laura Buzo
Book Reviews
August 3, 2010 posted by Christina

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
Rating:: ★★★★☆

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.”

Life Swap – Abby McDonald
Book Reviews
November 23, 2009 posted by Katie

Life Swap – Abby McDonald

Can changing places change their lives?

Two girls on opposite sides of the globe both want a quick getaway. The answer? They switch places through a last minute global exchange program. The catch? It’s a direct swap. They swap classes, accommodation and universities. No exceptions. Feminist political theory for film studies. On-camps accommodation for an share-apartment. A university where attendance is expected to one that doesn’t take a roll.

Tasha’s life seems to be coming to pieces. After the disastrous ‘hot-tub incident’, Tasha’s parents wont even talk to her. She can’t go anywhere without being recognised – for all the wrong reasons. She’s desperate to get out. To go anywhere. Emily thought she was on-track. Every aspect planned until she is dumped by her boyfriend for being too studious and up-tight. Every step of her life has been because it is the right decision for the future. The future that her parents what for her. Until now.

Tasha winds up in Oxford, England. Not something you would expect of a typical beach going, class-skipping and all round party girl from America. Finding herself wadding Ugg-deep in feminist theory, Tasha just wants people to see her for who she really is. Not who they all think she is. Yet when the whole university seems out to get her for her rather different views on feminism, blending in seems to be an impossible feat. Emily heads to the University of California, Santa Barbara. Suddenly she is in a world that is the opposite of organisation, planning and preparation. From a class size of three to a lecture hall of 200, Emily is in for a semester of film critiquing, script re-writing and filming. However, her ‘English’ image of perfection and organisation seems to be alienating the rest of the student body against her.

Before long, the two girls make contact from opposite sides of the globe, each offering the other tips and strategies on how to fit in, navigate the difficulty of love and figuring out who they really want to be. Can Tasha and Emily help each other before they each make the best or worst mistake of their lives?

First off, I loved this book. It was extremely well-written and captivating from the first page until the end. Life Swap is debut novel from Abby McDonald, who is a recent graduate of Oxford University providing an excellent platform to satire the collage experience. McDonald’s spin on what could have potentially be seen as stereotypical characters gave a fresh new insight into the way different cultures work and operate against each other. The language choices are fresh and real – McDonald knows how to talk in the language of a teenager, and it transfers into the truth and reality conveyed in Life Swap. With interesting plot developments for both characters and an equal division of both characters story, McDonald manages to create two diverse universe’s that operate in sync with each other. For me, the characters where real people that I could relate to.

I saw a reflection of myself in both Tasha and Emily’s actions, and were able to relate to the choices and situations that both characters found themselves in. From Tasha trying to re-gain some sense of pride and belief in herself after a past mistake that the world wouldn’t forget, to Emily trying to let loose and relinquish her almost obsessive-compulsive to have everything this in her life organised. Emily’s defiance of her parents in the face of, for once, choosing to do what she wants and the events that influence this decision was an interesting look for me, and I feel that many young adults who read this book will relate to it in the same way.

Life Swap was a joy of an adventure that had you laughing, crying and cringing with every decision made.

Rating:: ★★★★★