The Boy From the Mish, by Gary Lonesborough
'The Boy From the Mish' by debut author Gary Lonesborough is a beautifully articulated and heartfelt own voices story that will stay with you long after the closing pages. I was reluctant to leave this world behind, I cared so much about the characters - which is, of course, the marker of a compelling story.
I absolutely adored the raw and engaging voice of the 17-year-old narrator Jackson, who lives on the NSW South Coast, and is anticipating the arrival of his Aunty Pam and young cousins from Sydney. Every summer his Aunt and cousins come and spend Christmas with Jackson's family - but this year is different. Trailing behind Aunty Pam is Tomas, who is just out of juvie and is staying with Aunty Pam for a while. Jackson initially glances at Tomas indifferently, annoyed that he has to share his room with this quiet, edgy stranger.
But this is the summer things are going to change for both boys as they find themselves slowly drawn to each other. As the two boys start working together on an art project, Jackson finds himself fighting his growing feelings for Tomas, leading to inner conflict as he struggles both with his identity, and the crossroads he finds himself at in regards to his future.
Will Jackson have the courage to embrace his true self and figure out which path to take?
I love the way in which creativity and the act of creating is highlighted in this story - together Jackson and Tomas are creating a graphic novel as part of Tomas' recovery program. The superhero character they create - a character who finds his inner strength and identity - reflects the growth of both boys as their bond deepens.
Jackson's Mum and Aunt Pam are also engaged in creating their own artwork - the journey of creating their painting bringing a sense of healing.
There is much to be discussed around themes of identity, prejudice, culture, toxic masculinity, love and family. And the ways in which engaging in art can lead to growth and healing.
The beating heart of this coming of age story is the love between Jackson and Tomas - the scenes between these two portrayed with such tenderness it makes your heart ache.
Highly recommend this one for your home or school library.
Published by Allen & Unwin