Good Oil (AU)
Love and Other Perishable Items (U.S.)
by Laura Buzo
Released: August 2010 (Australia)
Allen & Unwin
Source: Go Aussie Book Tours
REVIEW: Laura Buzo has crafted a lovely, honest picture of growing older and getting wiser. I don't know how these Aussie authors are doing it, but they are absolutely nailing authentic characterization and natural dialogue of contemporary characters. It's a sound that translates universally, but I've yet to see it crossover into the YA I've picked up lately on the domestic front (recent exception: Other Words For Love by
I distinctly remember squealing with delight over what a great character Amelia was developing into while reading Good Oil. I tweeted Missie from the Unread Reader letting her know how much I really, really loved Amelia. It's always odd to look at a former picture of yourself when from high school, and that's what Amelia was for me: a somewhat awkward teen, way too serious to be cool, nothing gets by her, but has trouble fitting in some of the time, whether it's because of others judging her, or her judging others. You kind of lose some of that as you get older, so it's nice to be slapped with a reminder every now and again of how you were. And Amelia, between you and me, I promise - things get better with time and age. Trust me on this.
And then there's Chris. Meh.
Don't get me wrong - Chris is an entirely believable, extremely well-written character, as well. He's a whole person, too; he's just not my type of person, at least not in his current stage in life. That being said, I would have been head-over-heels in love with him, just like Amelia. At 15. Not so much today. Color me a hypocrite, but hear me out. . . Chris is a charming, intelligent and lovable guy. He'd be a great character on Gilmore Girls. He's at a crossroads in his life, with one road called 'Daddy Issues', another called ' Heartbreak Hangover', a third called, 'Deadend Job' and a fourth called 'School Debt'.
Blows, Chris, I know. I'm there with ya, buddy.
Now, these four roads lead to a center of town I'm going to affectionately call 'Sack Up Square'. I know we all are there at one point in our lives. Hell, I think I've sublet there more than once. That being said, I have very little patience with myself when I get there because my essential, bare bones opinion is that one needs to get moving or go nowhere. This impatience with myself was transferred to Chris, who, in my opinion, needs to either clip on his big boy pair or commit to a lifetime of indecision and self-loathing. As delightful as Amelia's road to self-discovery was, to me, Chris's felt a bit overdue. I feel like he defined his life by who loved him rather than who and what he loved. He defined his world as in terms of what was absent rather than what he wanted and working towards it. What can I say? I like my characters stoic, whether it's brazen or bashful, and Amelia has moxie in spades. Chris does not. However, for the type person he was, Buzo was spot on with writing him - he's a thoroughly believable guy who is facing major life decisions. He's also an essentially good person, who also happens to make some muy shitey judgment calls - a decent male protagonist who comes off only slightly less important than Amelia. His emphasis on dwelling on his current state of tedium rather than simply making decisions and getting on with his life just rackled me a bit. He did get under my skin and make me laugh, though.
The lad has potential. Maybe it's the sort of 'what if' that only a young girl truly can appreciate and have patience with. Hence, Amelia's crush. I get it.
I'd love to sit down with them both in about five years and see what happens.
Everything about this book is authentic. It's wonderful and unexpected dual first-person narrations from Amelia and Chris make the book all the more interesting, and I particularly like that you got the sense of their different stages in life through it. Reflecting on it, I am probably a bit too hard on Chris on some points. Give Amelia seven years to get to Chris' stage in life, and who knows - she might sound rather similar. Good Oil is a solid read and a fine example of how there is no pinnacle of maturity in life - simply stages and circles we walk through and around, learning what we can and growing as we move along. Pick up and down some Good Oil - I'd love to see how it echos in your head.