This installment: early days in the Australian outback (f); Pullman’s new one (f); and a teen book about a recent local happening (nf).
Only Killers and Thieves by Paul Hawkins
The title refers to the original settlers of Australia, and indeed life is very stark in 1885 in the harsh outback. Rampant racism as well, with systemic crackdowns on aboriginals. Tommy and Billy witness a horrifying example of this and when they come back to their homestead to find the rest of their family slaughtered, it’s assumed a disgruntled native did the deed and a a posse sets out to hunt him down, including a powerful, corrupt land owner and a sinister detective. Billy is an enthusiastic participant but Tommy is undone by the brutality he witnesses that wipes out an entire tribe. Tough stuff but a powerful yarn.
The Book of Dust by Philip Pullman
Written for adults, this is essentially a prequel to the Dark Materials Trilogy (and the first in a new trilogy—yes)! Malcolm, an innkeeper’s son, keeps his ear to the ground and discovers the nuns have taken in a baby who turns out to be Lyra. It’s hush-hush because her father (on the run) is trying to keep her safe, her chilly mother has launched a repressive children’s society, and a villain is claiming fatherhood with sinister designs. I was ready for a good story and this delivers in spades. I was also happy to be back in that peculiar magical world in which humans have shape-changing animal “daemons.”
The 57 Bus by Dashka Slater
A YA book that explores a horrendous recent local event: African-American kids who set Sasha’s skirt on fire In Oakland. Sasha considers themselves (yes, that’s the pronoun in the new nomenclature) agender. Severe burns, outrage and demonstrations, but we learn more about the one perpetrator who got charged, Richard and how what started out as a prank got so out of control. By the end of the book, insight into and compassion for both Sasha and Richard—no mean feat.
Back next week.