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Sunday, January 30, 2011

Review: Good Oil by Laura Buzo


Release Date: August, 2010
Publisher: Allen & Unwin
Genre: Realistic/Contemporary Fiction
Age Group: Young Adult
Pages: 300
Source: Bought

Blurb (from allenandunwin.com)

'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?

The Quickie Review

Laura Buzo has woven a beautiful story of first love and growing up all set around the aptly named Land of Dreams (Chris’ name for Woolworths or Woolies as it’s so fondly named by the Aussie public, which is a large supermarket chain in Australia for all you non Aussies reading this). It’s a story of one who is just entering young adulthood and another who is leaving it but both are trying to understand and find their place in the world.

Good Oil engross you from page one with two utterly complex yet relatable characters, the shy, smart Amelia and the boisterous, fun loving Chris, both of who I adored. It’s cute, it’s bittersweet and it’s 'a little bit heartbreaking' but it’s also beautifully honest and well worth reading. Laura Buzo has made a definite impact on me and, fingers crossed, the Aussie YA literary world as well, I hope she has many more books to come.

The Full Blown Review

15 year old Amelia works at Woolworths or as her favourite fellow worker Chris calls it ‘The Land of Dreams’ and it is indeed ‘The Land of Dreams’ for Amelia who soon develops her first all consuming crush on her 21 year old co-worker which quickly and unexpectedly turns into her first love (her realization or ‘ah-ha’ moment that she’s in love with Chris happens sitting on the couch watching TV with her little sister). Unfortunately for Amelia Chris, at first, doesn’t even remotely think of Amelia that way. Both Amelia and Chris see something in each other and their friendship develops over the course of the novel, however will Chris ever be able to overcome the 6 year age gap between them to see Amelia as she wants to be seen in his eyes?

Good Oil is told in dual narratives between 15 year old Amelia and 21 year old Chris through his diary entries, I loved how we got both of their perspectives about their relationship and also what each one was feeling and how they interpreted each other at the time. I guess what amazed me with this book was that the Amelia and Chris were so well developed and real that I could relate to both of them, which often isn’t the case in many novels, I mean one sure but both, not usually.

I loved Amelia she had this childish innocence to her that we all used to have, some more than others. Reading through Amelia’s narrative gave me flash backs to my teen years, trying to navigate through the murky waters of high school whilst also trying to understand where you fit into the overall picture world. Heck I was Amelia, I was frustrated with my parents on many an occasion, just like Amelia I hated my mothers smoking with a passion always making a point that it annoyed the crap out of me and yet she still continued with it, I was dealing with pushy and loud school boys going to and from school (only I got this privilege not only on a bus but a tram and train as well), I went to a girls school that had defined social hierarchies and it’s safe to say I was not in the ‘popular’ group, the only teenage boy contact I had was with my brother who it must be said barely tolerated me, one of my best friends abruptly (like literally overnight) went gaga for boys and suddenly I was in this place feeling alone and left out of it all, ah yes the teen years, lot of angst, I remember it well.

I also understood where Chris was coming from, he’s in his last year of an arts degree and what the heck is he going to do? I could totally understood his reasons for doing an honours year because that was me 2 years ago, I mean for me finishing uni and finding a job was just too unthinkable, especially because I did a degree with not too many great job prospects so what did I go and do? A masters degree, problem solved, but this didn’t really solve anything as I finish this year and once again I’m at the crossroads Chris was at, what am I going to do when I finish? Which BTW, just like Chris, annoys the crap out of me when people ask me that question, I don’t know what I’m going to do but it will come to me eventually people! Sorry about that little rant anyway where was I oh yes Chris. What I also really love was how whilst he at first appears to the reader as this really chipper, happy go lucky guy from Amelia’s observations we learn from Chris' perspective that he feels like he’s alone, just like Amelia, and his life is a mess. It appears to Chris that everyone seems to be moving on with their lives post uni whilst he’s stuck in the same place doing the same things watching everyone passing him bye. He’s also trying to deal with his growing feelings for ‘the youngster’ which he sees as inappropriate because of their age gap even though Chris can really talk to Amelia and she makes him really think and question his previous notions of whatever subject they’re talking about. Chris also made some mistakes that annoyed me no end, there was one particular incident, why Chris, why I was asking myself but that’s what people do, they make mistakes and that’s what makes a character real. So I guess what I loved about Chris was how Laura so clearly conveyed his feelings of despair and hopelessness he had for his life, it was so well written that I really understood where he was coming from because I’ve been there and what do you know I seem to be back there again, eek!

It is also evident Laura knows her literature with sprinklings of references from The Great Gatsby to Great Expectations and The Catcher in the Rye. Pop cultural references also abound, my personal favourite was when Chris was describing having his heart ripped out à la Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. I love that these literary and pop cultural references are written so effortlessly throughout the book it makes for some really funny and engaging conversations between Amelia and Chris.

I knew throughout the book that logically there was only one possible ending and whilst both Amelia and Chris did connect intellectually the age gap between the two was simply too big, Amelia still has a lot of growing up to do and more to experience of the world, Chris on the other hand also has a lot of growing up to do but his is different from Amelia’s because they are in completely different stages in their lives. I’ve read the word bittersweet to describe the ending and I’m of the same opinion, it is bittersweet but there is the eternal flame of hope left for the two which for me is hopefully *crosses fingers and toes* a follow up to this book, I would sell my soul for a sequel, dramatic much, me?

To be quite frank I have fallen head over heels for this book, just like Amelia did for Chris!

Rating

5 out of 5

There’s Another Book?!?

So I’m not sure if there is going to be a sequel to Good Oil (one can only hope there will be, oh please, please) but there is good news as Laura is signed to Allen & Unwin to write two young adult novels, so there is definitely another YA novel in Laura’s future! [Source]

Goodies


About the Author

Laura Buzo was born and grew up in Sydney, middle of three daughters. Growing up she loved swimming, riding horses, tennis, netball, running, chocolate and above all, reading. After university, Laura worked as a social worker in various acute and community-based mental health settings in Sydney. In 2005 she took some time away from work to start writing her first novel, Good Oil. Laura is still working as a social worker and has a young daughter. She lives in Sydney. [Source]

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Romy @ Lost.in.Stories
Greetings fellow blog readers, welcome to my blog and thank you for stopping by. Now you may be wondering who is lost.in.stories? Well lost.in.stories is also known as Romy, a 23 year old graduate student from Australia who loves to read. I read (maybe devour would be a more appropriate word) largely young adult novels, with a particular love of fantasy and paranormal novels, however I am also a sucker for a good romance.
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