Monday, 17 September 2012
Life, Death and Detention: Short Stories about School and Other Stuff
Life, Death and Detention by George Ivanoff (Morris Publishing Australia)
PB RRP $15.95
Reviewed by Anastasia Gonis
This book was George Ivanoff’s first book, published in 1999. He has written over 50 books since then. Although out of print for some time, it has been on the Victorian Premier’s Reading Challenge since it began in 2005. It’s reprinting is welcome because of the excellent content of the stories.
Confronting, powerful, poignant, and at times shocking, it contains ten stories about school life and all the terrors faced by youth during those educational years, the result of bullying, the absence of duty of care from teachers and headmasters, and peer pressure. These stories have strong themes including, attempted suicide, grief/mourning and love, the angst of first love, and loss.
An interesting thing about these stories is the Afterword by the author, where he addresses the reader with a short response to the story; a note about the reason for the ‘deliberate uncertain ending’. This is meant to draw the attention of the young reader to the various outcomes, how the situation depicted can have many endings, depending on the reaction of the victim and ‘the other/s’ involved.
The only story that is unrelated to the rest is the slightly Sci Fi, Sugar. All the rest are within the boundaries of school and schoolyard. Ghosts is a slightly different slant on coping with grief, and The Writing’s on the Wall is about conversational graffiti, although both stories are set inside the school boundaries.
Ivanoff, although having moved the stories into the 21st Century, and having edited some prose where it was not clear due to his earlier inexperience as a writer, has remained true to the original contents of the book in this revised edition.
This is an impressive collection of stories, highly recommended by the reviewer to anyone wishing to understand the separate world of school bullies, the absence of care and interest for young people’s dilemmas, and the chaos of young lives biding time behind the boundaries of schools, where changes may occur slowly, but seem never-ending.