Published by Allen & Unwin on February 2, 2021
Genres: Contemporary, Diversity, LGBT, Young Adult
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A funny and heart-warming queer Indigenous YA novel, set in a rural Australian community, about seventeen-year-old Jackson finding the courage to explore who he is, even if it scares him.
'I don't paint so much anymore,' I say, looking to my feet.
'Oh. Well, I got a boy who needs to do some art. You can help him out,' Aunty Pam says, like I have no say in the matter, like she didn't hear what I just said about not painting so much anymore. 'Jackson, this is Tomas. He's living with me for a little while.'
It's a hot summer, and life's going all right for Jackson and his family on the Mish. It's almost Christmas, school's out, and he's hanging with his mates, teasing the visiting tourists, avoiding the racist boys in town. Just like every year, Jackson's Aunty and annoying little cousins visit from the city - but this time a mysterious boy with a troubled past comes with them… As their friendship evolves, Jackson must confront the changing shapes of his relationships with his friends, family and community. And he must face his darkest secret - a secret he thought he'd locked away for good.
As a queer Indigenous YA story, The Boy From Mish offers some much needed representation in the #LoveOzYA space. It is a sweet, heartfelt coming of age story about Jackson learning about his sexuality and his attraction to males, particularly his new roommate Tomas.
I thought Jackson was a wonderful character, his thoughts and feelings were raw, deep and honest. As someone who is comfortable in his community and with his place there, it’s natural for Jackson to feel some internal resistance against his innermost secret. He starts the book in denial, with a “surely it’s just a phase” mentality, but soon learns that the feelings that he has developed for Tomas are real and here to stay. This is especially in contrast with how he was with his soon to be ex-girlfriend at the start of the book.
The Boy From Mish also covers the topic of racism which First Nations Australians experience everyday, with the white people starting fights with Jackson and his mates. There were also a lot of microaggressions that were brought up, such as how there is a separate beach for the white people and the Black people. While this can be a difficult topic to broach, it is all brought up naturally and conversationally in Gary’s writing style.
I also liked the exploration into Indigenous culture and being one with your people, through the Men’s club that Jackson participates in. He talks a lot about his community and the respect for his elders and the country, and then later, what it means to be queer within the community.
Set during summer break between Grade 11 and 12, there’s also a bit of partying and teens having a good time with a bit of alcoholism and smoking joints. At one point, Jackson is also arrested for starting a fight with someone due to a racist slur, and it was interesting hearing from his perspective about having to go through the system.
The Boy From Mish is a heartfelt coming of age story with #ownvoices queer Indigenous representation. It covers a sensitive part in a teenager’s life when they discover that they might be queer, and explores what this means within the Indigenous community. I thought it was raw, beautifully written and definitely a must read for YA readers out there.
Rating: 4 out of 5
Thanks to Allen & Unwin Australia for sending me a review copy!
The Boy From Mish is out now from Australian bookstores for RRP$19.99 or from the Book Depository.
Trigger warnings: alcoholism, racism, homophobia
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