I can’t remember where I got the original recommendation for Good Oil by Laura Buzo but I’ve heard such good things about it. I’ve put off reading it because after this, I’ll be out of Aussie YA books to read. But I wanted to include it in this year’s Aussie YA Reading Challenge so I went ahead and picked it up. I finished reading this a couple of weeks ago but real life got in the way of things so I haven’t posted my review until now.
Here’s the summary from Goodreads:
“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 6-year difference in their ages may as well be a hundred. 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?
Good Oil was published in 2010 but I get the feeling that it’s set earlier because the characters use landlines instead of mobile phones to contact each other and there’s no mention of the internet. I just noticed that little thing but I certainly didn’t mind because it reminded me of how things were like when I was in high school. What I really liked about Good Oil is we get alternating perspectives from both Amelia and Chris. I could relate to fifteen-year-old Amelia, still in high school and nursing the biggest of crushes even though she knows there’s no hope. If you’ve ever had a crush on someone unattainable, then you’d really like Amelia. She’s also smart and passionate about the things that she believes in. And a bonus point for all of us readers: she loves to read as well. A quote from the book from Chris’ POV: “She even takes the goings-on of fictitious characters personally.” Umm Chris, why is that surprising? I do that all the time! I could also relate to Chris, who’s older but not necessarily wiser. Funny, charming Chris who studies in college while working in Woolsworth, or what he calls the Land of Dreams. He’s heartbroken and dulls his pain by consuming as much alcohol as he can. Endless drinking sessions in college? Been there, done that. If you’ve ever been lonely and heartbroken, you’ll be able to sympathize with Chris too. I felt like his voice was very realistic for a guy in his early twenties.
I’m beginning to think there really is something in the water that Australian authors drink. How else can we explain the number of well-written YA novels that keep popping up? Good Oil is no exception. I thoroughly enjoyed reading about the interactions between the two main characters – how Amelia looks up to Chris and wants to spend more time with him even if nothing romantic develops between them and how Chris calls Amelia youngster but starts to think of her as maybe something more (although he also knows there couldn’t be anything between them because of the age difference). I liked the tension and the friendship between these two, their conversations are intriguing and fun to observe. It also made me realize how vastly different high school and college students behave. Good Oil is something that I’d recommend to all fans of contemporary YA, I just wish it was a lot easier to acquire. I think this is the last Aussie YA title that I will review for this year but I’m looking forward to reading more of these in 2012! I definitely had a lot of fun completing the Aussie YA Reading Challenge for this year.