In short: I loved this book.
Let me start by saying that Slice isn’t a book I would’ve picked up on a whim. The reasons I picked up my review copy had nothing to do with interest: it was skinny enough not to weigh down my bag; I love watermelons. Seriously, there’s something delightful about that cover.
This novel doesn’t have much of a plot, but Steven Herrick is such a fabulous craftsman that he manages to connect tenuously related vignettes about teenage life into a story I couldn’t put down.
Sixteen-year old Darcy admits he suffers from chronic ‘premature enunciation’. It’s not that he talks without thinking: ‘I mean what I say, I just shouldn’t say it aloud.’ And he’s cheeky enough to get away with it for the most part. He’s a bit awkward, a bit rude, a little too clever for his own good (and he knows it) and sometimes so funny I couldn’t stop myself from laughing out loud on the bus. The man next to me may have shifted slightly in his seat. Peak hour commuters are a suspicious lot.
It’s impossible not to be charmed by Herrick’s irreverent narrator. It’s not so much that he overcomes the foibles of youth, but that his compassion and humour continually surprise. He’ll get into a stoush with Tim, the class bully, to impress a girl, but he’s not above abasing himself in the presence of the same girl when he knows the odds are totally against him. Later, he insults Tim yet feels embarrassed for ‘letting my big mouth get the better of me’ and resorting to cheap shots.
At the school excursion, Darcy finds himself paired up with Noah, who manages, unintentionally, to stymie Darcy’s attempts to approach Audrey, his crush of two years. And when Audrey offers to teach him how to meditate after school, Darcy must suffer through a blackhead, his Dad’s sex talk, a trip to the chemist and just generally trying not to embarrass himself in front of the girl of his dreams.
While Darcy is the focus of the story, the supporting characters—Darcy’s parents, teachers and classmates—are just as engaging. Darcy’s long-suffering dad, in particular, made me smile every time he had a bit of dialogue. I love that although the male perspective dominates this book, the female characters have very defined personalities and strengths.
Yay or nay?
This is an excellent book for young teens. The characters continually surprise, and if the book seems relatively thin it’s because Herrick does so much with so few words. Darcy is a witty, wonderful narrator and his shenanigans made for one of my favourite reads of the year.
A review copy of this book was generously provided by Random House Australia. Steven Herrick posted a most lovely story about deciding to be a writer and the significance of his writing desk. You can read it on the Random Blog.
Where you can buy this book
AUSTRALIA: Booktopia | Co-op Bookshop | Dymocks | Fishpond | Leading Edge | Pages & Pages | Readings | Click here for more bookshops
EBOOKS: Book Depository UK | Borders | eBooks.com | Kindle US
WORLDWIDE: Not available