Monday, August 2, 2010

review : six impossible things

Six Impossible Things, Fiona Wood (Pan Macmillan)

[Dan’s] life is a mess, but for now he’s narrowed it down to just six impossible things.

Dan Cereal is a dickhead.

At least, that’s how the first day at his new school turns out for Dan Cereill (it’s pronounced “surreal”). He’s fourteen, skinny and smart. His dad has declared himself bankrupt and gay at the same time and Dan and his mum, now penniless, have taken refuge in a Heritage Trust Gothic Victorian Terrace scented with eau d’urine (de chien et de chat et de tante agée).

It’s not all bad, though. There’s the beautiful girl next door; Dan knows that he and Estelle are perfect for one another. They are! They like the same music! Other things! And ‘There’s this sky she likes.’ (one of my favourite lines…had me singing ‘excuse me while I kiss this guy’ à la Jimi Hendrix). Unfortunately for Dan, the reason for his great ‘in’ with the girl (next door) of his dreams is a shameful reality…he’s found and read her diaries.

The dialogue is perfect. I loved Fred’s plan for what they could do if they sold the antique desk belonging to Dan's late great-aunt: ‘So we could flog this, substitute a copy and get fake ID, plane tickets to LA, fake driver’s licences, and drive across America to New York, have ourselves a time, and be back in time for Year Ten. What do you say?
Yeah, one little flaw – we can’t fake drive.’ (p.20)
The pop culture references are great and they actually work, which is rare. (Like Estelle, I too watched the final musical moment of Skins season one a number of times.)

What I particularly loved about Six Impossible Things is that it doesn’t limit itself to the relationship – or lack thereof – of Dan and Estelle. There is the wonderful support cast, who provide friendship, advice and antagonism. There is Howard, Dan’s inherited dog. There are the awesome best friends – pimply Fred and Lou and Estelle’s best friend Janie Bacon. There is the bully Jason ‘Jayzo’ Doyle. Oliver, the hipster-poseur replacement father figure/possible serial killer who lives down the back garden and his girlfriend DJ Pony.

But more importantly, on Dan’s list of the six impossible things he wants to accomplish, he wants to make his mother happy, he wants to support his family and knows he should patch things up with his dad. His mum’s wedding cake business isn’t doing well, probably not helped by the fact that she seems to be constantly able to talk the brides out of it. So Dan wants to get a job to support his little family. Like one of John Green’s endearing nerd heroes, like a perfect awkward Nick Earls character, Dan Cereill is a very smart young man, thoughtful and kind. This novel is fabulous.

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