Sunday 3 June 2012

Other Brother

Other Brother Other Brother by Simon French (Walker Books)
PB RRP $18.95
Reviewed by Anastasia Gonis

Eleven year old Kieran wants to be one of the cool kids. That means being cruel to, and ignoring his cousin Bon. Bon is different; an outcast because of his appearance and his way of life. He is quiet, creative, has long hair, and is poorly dressed. He has been shuffled around from place to place and has never really belonged anywhere. Now Bon has been left to alternate living between Kieran’s family and his grandmother to gain some stability in his life while his mother makes an attempt to gather up the remnants of a life lost amidst mental illness and bad choices.

Bon’s separateness attracts Julia, another marginalised child. They find they have many things in common as two outsiders; each with a different story. This creates in Kieran a strong resentment, and jealousy at Bon’s ability to draw the clever and compassionate Julia as a friend and defender, when that’s what he wants for himself.

A defender is what Bon needs the most and Kieran is having no part of it. So he allows his cousin to be bullied, even takes part in dehumanising him as a way of remaining inside the popular circle of so-called friends. But deep inside, he has mixed feelings about his out-of-character behaviour, and this bothers him.

It is not until Kieran begins to see Bon as a person in danger that he revolts against peer pressure, and is jolted into a return to Self that saves both of them.

This is a deeply moving, well-crafted book. In the usual unique Simon French style, every word counts. Every sentence is measured and precise, and the themes addressed in all his books are significant and current. This is a story for all the children that are moved about that never belong. It is about being the odd one out that is always picked on, and a reflection on the separate life that children in constant transit live, that others don’t see or understand.

 This is Simon’s first book in ten years and could well be another award winner. 

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