Tuesday, January 25, 2011
Good Oil - Laura Buzo
Author: Laura Buzo
Publisher: Allen & Unwin
Date of Publication: August 2010
Length: 252 pages
From the Publisher: 'Miss Amelia Hayes, welcome to The Land of Dreams. I am the staff trainer. I will call you grasshopper and you will call me sensei and I will give you the good oil. Right? And just so you know, I'm open to all kinds of bribery.'
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 six-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?
As someone who was a check-out chick at Amelia's rival supermarket for over 3 years, Good Oil certainly struck a few chords with me. There is something bonding about working in a supermarket (seriously, you’ll know what I mean if you’ve worked at a Land of Dreams – cranky customers, fruit and veg codes, price checks & clearances, the incestuous store dating pool, politics, policies and skeevy managers).
I adored Good Oil! I was able to pick out a (slightly freakish) amount of myself at the same age in young Amelia – in her personality, her changing relationship with her friends and the way she views her parents. Amelia is smart, somewhat naive (oh lordy, there were a few incidents which made me laugh – one involving a misunderstanding over‘cones’ springs to mind) and introspective and her voice is relatable and easy to engage with. Buzo does a fantastic job in writing a realistic female teen protagonist and capturing an honest coming of age story.
The narrative switches between Amelia and Chris from about half way through Good Oil, which only cemented how much I liked the book (c’mon, you know by now that I love a good dual-narrative). Through diary entries and letters, Buzo has crafted such a likeable and fresh male voice – and one I feel isn’t heard often enough (Chris being in his early twenties and is beginning to think about life outside of uni). I thought the friendship between Chris and Amelia was amazingly well-written, and there’s something so charming about Chris, that you can’t help (like Amelia and the rest of the Land of Dreams) to fall into major ‘like’ with him.
I also felt that Laura Buzo’s writing of Chris was very honest (even at times when I didn’t want it to be!) – he speaks frankly about sex and makes dumb mistakes, like any other guy of the same age and I felt it added such an authenticity to the novel (because I’m a bit over YA love interests who are flawless and two-dimensional).
Good Oil is refreshing, funny and sweet. Whilst the premise is quite simple, the well-developed characters and honest depiction of adolescent firsts (crushes, kisses, jobs and heartbreak) makes for an engaging story. I really hope that we hear a lot more from Laura Buzo in the (not-so-distant) future – especially if there’s an Amelia & Chris follow up ... pretty please?