Worse than school?

“There are lots of things worse than school.”

This comment, made by Charlotte, begins an argument between her and Luke’s best mate, Blake; on a day they decide to skip school. It later becomes something Luke ponders more deeply, as he gets to know Charlotte a little better.

In usual Steven Herrick style, ‘the Bogan Mondrian’ is told in a clear, waste-no-words fashion.

Luke and his friends are relatable characters – teens biding their time at school, but preferring to spend a more casual existence away from school. As regular visitors to the principal’s office for truanting and cheekiness, they are nonetheless likeable.

Luke is still coming to grips with life after his father’s premature death from cancer. Charlotte has recently enrolled in the local public high school he attends, though she is clearly from a wealthy background and could attend a costly private school. Even though they live in contrasting worlds of wealth, their friendship evolves as they work through their own personal issues, and occasionally gain support from each other.

That said, it is not always an easy relationship, with aggression and flareups often arising. Luke is uneasy about Charlotte’s homelife, and Charlotte is not very willing to be open and honest with everyone – under attack and often quite aggressive herself.

Other characters woven into the story provide interesting levels of support for Luke, in the absence of his father. Rodney, a petty local criminal, gives Luke a few pointers/things to think about at times, and later in the story, tools for action. Neighbour, Mr Rosetti, also provides advice and amusing banter each time they cross paths. Even Buster (the local mutt that Luke adopts for his walks) has a important place in grounding Luke’s emotions throughout the story.

For Blue Mountains readers, there will be places and names you may well enjoy recognising. On the other hand, you may have to allow poetic licence to Herrick as he tells his tale – with the cultural divide north and south of the highway a bit irksome, and the efforts of the Mr Pakula, the school principal, (seeking out truants himself) a bit questionable. But still the story must be told.

You will find that there are worse things than school; things sadly that some young people face daily. Herrick’s fictional youth tackle these the best way they can – though not always with glowing success. Lots of food for thought and highly recommended reading.

# Those who wonder about the title and cover design can find information on Mondrian here.

## More importantly, after you have finished ‘the Bogan Mondrian’, you can read here the reasons why Steven Herrick wrote this book.

### Shortlisted for CBCA Older Readers 2019.

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