darcy is in year eleven at school, a bit of a shakespeare fan, definitely not a soccer guy (in spite of his middle name - pele - and all of his football-mad dad's encouragement). he can't shut up, mostly just blurting out whatever shoots into his head. even when it's not the best thing to say.
there's the totally awesome english teacher, ms hopkins, who wears t-shirts with great slogans on them, whose reaction to the class dismissing the romantic poets as crapola is to piff shelley out the classroom window.
and there's the beautiful audrey, girl of darcy's dreams. audrey who meditates in her backyard while darcy lies out on his roof...pretending not to watch her. audrey's not afraid to say what she thinks.
and there is noah, chess-obsessed and darcy's unlikely friend. there's also tim harris, the bully. but our characters don't stay pigeonholed or one-dimentional. these are normal, smart, thoughtful teens who are awkward but somehow confident, they've got their problems but nothing is blown out of proportion (tho darcy does spend a lot of time worrying about one little blackhead on his nose) and when it's revealed that noah's father has suffered a stroke darcy isn't so blinded by his love for audrey that he can't realise when others need support. these are good people.
slice looks at what it is to be a man. it's a coming of age story and includes a gorgeous scene in which darcy goes to buy condoms and reminisces about going for ice cream with his dad, wishing he was getting ice cream now instead. such beautiful sentiment about childhood and moving forwards, and it only takes herrick three short paragraphs. i can't help thinking about other books (err...and my own work) that blather on and on, in an effort to get to their point.
herrick is master of writing relationships. in particular, relationships between fathers and sons (like jack and his dad in love, ghosts and nose hair ; the father-like relationship between billy and old bill in the simple gift) and in slice it's hilarious and beautiful as dad frets about darcy thinking suicidal thoughts, to the point of kneeling at the bathroom keyhole as darcy wills his blackhead pimple away. there's nothing clichéd, nothing mean or brutal in here, the dads and their sons are always friends - even if they are annoying and stupid at times.
on my first read i thought that it would have worked better in the free verse form of herrick's older work, that it was too short as a conventional novel. but reading it through for a second time, giving myself time to really enjoy the way it was written i decided it's pretty damn perfect how it is.