Saturday 6 December 2014

My Unforgettable Year

My Unforgettable Year by Adem Besim (Morris Publishing Australia)
PB RRP $22.95 e-book $4.99
ISBN 9780992505271
Reviewed by Dianne Bates

It wasn’t until I started reading this YA novel that I realised how little contemporary fiction there is about male teenage protagonists and their lives. In fact, all I could recall was Maureen Johnson’s Boofheads, which was published quite a few years ago.

Here is a book written by a young man in his early twenties who clearly remembers the angst of the teen years. Narrated by seventeen-year-old Nathan Thompson, My Unforgettable Year tells of the teenager’s trials and tribulations as he negotiates his final school year. On the surface, Nathan seems to have it all. He's the goal-kicking footy superstar from the small town of Kyabram. And he’s managed to snag the attention of beautiful, rich Katie who is new to town. However, his life and future at times seems doomed, especially as his over-bearing father, Mark, desperately wants Nathan to be the next national AFL player to make his town proud. Instead, Nathan plays footy for fun and dreams of university and a career in architecture.

When problems arise in his life, Nathan is often explosive and erratic, for instance when he resorts to physical violence against a footy team-mate. He is constantly on a hormonal roller-coast ride. Sometimes he seems mature and wise, other times he acts like an emotional juvenile. His emotions range from feelings of betrayal to disrespect to satisfaction to love. Often, like any teenager, he struggles with peer relationships, at times querying the motives of Katie and his best friend Matty. Nathan’s relationship with his ambitious father, whom he mostly detests, is tempered by his warm relationship with his mother and brother, Josh. Luckily, he has two positive male role-models, his Coach Garry and teacher, Mr Hazelman. What works best in the book is how Besim manages to capture the tension and action of an ongoing football match from a player’s perspective. The role of his coach is beautifully captured.

Besim has a unique insight into what makes a teenage boy click. Mostly his dialogue is true and the emotional depth of his characters is also true but at times his writing is self-conscious and needs a more vigorous editorial hand. I thought that sex would have been a driving force in a book about a seventeen-year-old – lots of talk among boys about girls -- but that doesn’t happen. Yes, there is one sexual episode in the book, but it is glossed over.

For the most part, though, this is a book about things that matter to teen boys – footy, mateship, partying, studying, examinations, thoughts of the future, and relationships with parents, siblings and peers. The book deals, too, with the big issues of bullying, death, and falling in love. Overall it’s an ambitious novel as the reader follows Nathan’s difficult, but ultimately successful coming of age. It is, as the book says, an unforgettable year.

My Unforgettable Year is available from all library suppliers, Dennis Jones and Associates or wholesale from Morris Publishing Australia’s website It is also produced and available as an eBook and on Amazon, Smashwords, Apple and Kobo.

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