Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Being Black 'N Chicken, & Chips by Matt Okine

Being Black 'N Chicken, & Chips by Matt Okine
Published September 24th 2019 Hachette


A heartbreaking and often hilarious story about trying to grow up when everything is falling apart from one of Australia's leading comic talents.
Mike Amon is a regular teenager. All he wants is to fit in. He wants to sit at the cool bench. He wants to be a star athlete. He wants his first kiss.
He also wants his mum to survive.
When his mum is suddenly diagnosed with advanced breast and brain cancer, Mike knows it's a long shot, but if he manages to achieve his dreams, maybe it'll give his mum enough strength to beat an incurable disease.
In the meantime, he has to live with his African dad whom he doesn't really know, a man who has strange foreign ways - and who Mike doesn't really feel comfortable sharing his teenage desires and deepest fears with. He doesn't even want to think about what it might mean if his mum never comes home from the hospital.
Based on his award-winning stand-up show, and the loss of his own mother when he was 12, Matt Okine's coming-of-age novel, Being Black n Chicken and Chips, is a funny, heart-warming, and sometimes surreal look at how young people deal with grief, the loss of loved ones, and becoming an adult - all whilst desperately trying to fit in with the other kids

I found this one really interesting. I am coming from a children's and YA background, and I wanted to see where this book might fit in a High School library, as the protagonist is a 12 year old boy. 

This book is published as, and marketed, as an adult title, but to me it read like a YA.  The only thing that will jump it up the age bracket for me, is the language (swearing), and maybe Mike's preoccupation with his penis :)

It's a coming of age story, a story of first love, schoolyard bullies and a story of the most heartbreaking loss you can imagine at 12.  It has a good blend of humour throughout the story though, and that helps to take the edge of the tragedy that is unfolding for Mike.

The loss of his mother, and the confusion and questions surrounding growing up were honest and believable, if sometimes uncomfortable to read...but that's life, sometimes uncomfortable, especially if you are a 12 year old boy I would imagine.

The 90s setting was fun to revisit, for someone who lived through it, and I don't think it will jar with any readers who may not even remember a corded telephone!  

As someone who sells books to schools, I would have loved this to to be toned down slightly on the language front, and maybe a few less penis scenes....but that's just me being greedy, because I liked this book, and I would love for it to be a story for ages 11+, as well as adults and older teens.

Thanks to Hachette and Net Galley for the opportunity to review.

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