The Boy from the Mish by Gary Lonesborough

Australian summer means Christmas, and Jackson’s life is about to be turned upside down when his aunty comes to visit, bringing a stranger with her who’s fresh from juvenile prison.

Published in 2021, The Boy from the Mish is Gary Lonesborough’s debut YA novel.

The blurb on the back:

‘I don’t paint so much anymore,’ I say, looking to my feet.

‘Oh. Well, I got a boy who needs to do some art. You can help him out,’ Aunty Pam says, like I have no say in the matter, like she didn’t hear what I just said about not painting so much anymore. ‘Jackson, this is Tomas. He’s living with me for a little while.’

It’s a hot summer, and life’s going all right for Jackson and his family on the Mish. It’s almost Christmas, school’s out, and he’s hanging with his mates, teasing the visiting tourists, avoiding the racist boys in town. Just like every year, Jackson’s Aunty and annoying little cousins visit from the city – but this time a mysterious boy with a troubled past comes with them… As their friendship evolves, Jackson must confront the changing shapes of his relationships with his friends, family and community. And he must face his darkest secret – a secret he thought he’d locked away for good.

Compelling, honest and beautifully written, The Boy from the Mish is about first love, identity, and the superpower of self-belief.

What the reviewers said:

The Boy from the Mish is an extraordinary debut novel, and I loved this tender, beautiful story with all my heart. Jackson and Tomas stole my heart, and I’ll be thinking about them for a long time.’ NINA KENWOOD

‘A lightning bolt to the soul. The Boy from the Mish announces a bold, necessary new talent.’ WILL KOSTAKIS

‘How I wish I had this big-hearted book when I was a teenager. It would’ve changed my life. Let it change yours.’ BENJAMIN LAW

‘It is, honestly, a book I’ve been searching for over my whole career as an editor, as well as all my years as a (queer) reader. I’m not ashamed to say that it made me cry (repeatedly) and awed me with the power of its storytelling.’ DAVID LEVITHAN, Scholastic US Editorial Director

‘A deftly woven tale that is both a raw, unflinching look at the experience of growing up gay and Aboriginal, and a sweet, truly endearing love story you just can’t turn away from. This is Own Voices storytelling at its best.’ HOLDEN SHEPPARD

‘Honest. Funny. Beautiful. This book is all the things.’ GABBIE STROUD

What do I have to say about it?

Well, I devoured this book in two days, which shows you how much I enjoyed it. It’s tempting to say that if you enjoyed Heartstopper, then you’ll enjoy this, but actually, The Boy from the Mish is a lot darker despite the positive love story at its centre. Lonesborough confronts issues such as the racism and prejudices suffered by Australian First Nations people, teenage angst, the pains of growing up, sexuality and self-identity, and alcohol and drug use as well as the impact of traditional Indigenous culture on young people. The author writes in notes at the end of the book: “Racism is very prevalent towards First Nations people in Australian society…and therefore it is prevalent in my book.” The love story between the two boys, though, is undeniably the main focus.

Here’s the author being interviewed about the book, on Australian television in early 2021.

In short, this is an important and highly enjoyable book, brimming over with love and truth, which adds much needed representation in YA literature of the Aboriginal experience.

Love is Love.

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