Tuesday, 16 June 2015

Alana Oakley: Mystery and Mayhem

Alana Oakley: Mystery and Mayhem by Poppy Inkwell (Big Sky Publishing)
PB RRP $14.99
ISBN 781925275124

Reviewed by Dianne Bates

Energy, madcap mayhem and eccentric personalities are the main features of this novel pitched at girls aged 11 to 13 years. The two main characters are 12 year old Alana and her journalist mother Emma, each of whose stories are told in alternating chapters. Alana, whose father died three years earlier, is dreading the approach of her birthday as catastrophes seem to be their hallmark (note: dancing llamas and juggling fire-breather). Meanwhile, Alana begins Gibson High School with her besties, an Aboriginal girl Maddie and Sophie, who is the only girl in a family of five sons and no father. On the first day of school the three girls meet up with a new Muslim girl, Khalilah, whom they quickly befriend.

Mum’s friends Ling Ling and Katriona are also a colourful duo, fashionistas who seem determined to undermine Emma’s attempts to interview the mega-famous rock star sensation Slam Guru. Emma’s exclusive opportunity goes awry when the singer freaks out at seeing Katriona, who has stalked him overseas (not that she sees this as a problem.)

At school during her first lesson, a valuable charm goes missing which sets Alana and her mates on a quest to find out who has (probably) stolen it. Non-stop action ensues as the hunt goes on and Alana and her gang try to negotiate school hazards such as their Nazi-like physical education coach and over-the-top nurse. Then there’s Emma who seems destined to date what might be a mass-murderer she’s met online. Over-hanging all the non-stop escapades is Alana’s fear of her upcoming birthday and what might go wrong this time.

The author has set this fast-paced, sometimes melodramatic tale in Sydney’s inner suburbs and there is a convincing sense of place as the characters traverse areas such as Redfern and Newtown. The book’s characters, on the other hand, are so wildly different from the norm and their antics so exaggerated that the reader simply has to go along for the ride and accept that life in the extended Oakley world is quite outrageous.

Each of the chapters is given headings which foretell what’s to come – such as ‘Tattoos, chooks and botched translations,’ ‘Intense. Insane. Same-same lah!’ and ‘Treading the fine line between fun, Fun and no fun at all.’ 

This book is certainly very different to the usual fare for teens. 

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