Lust in a Hot Climate

Clancy of the Undertow
Christopher Currie
Text Publishing
December 2015

9781925240405Clancy of the Undertow tells the story of 16 year old Clancy, middle child of the apparently dysfunctional Underhill family. Living in small town Queensland is no fun for a tree-frog shaped misfit at the best of times but these are the worst of times (sorry Dickens). Do not be put off* by this though. It is not an earnest misery-fest, but a story told with such humour that I laughed out loud and quoted lines to anyone who happened to be in the same room at the time—and they laughed too.

Clancy’s father is a “person of interest” in a fatal road crash and unsavoury elements on the town seem intent on expressing their righteous indignation with spray paint and misspelt accusations. She is also suffering from unrequited love, friendlessness, minus zero self-esteem and is forced to ride a bicycle which thieves refuse to steal. Plus—to quote Clancy in a moment of driving related stress—she is a useless lezzo queer.

As the tale unfolds we meet a cast of endearing characters like Reeve, the Senior Executive Retail Law Enforcement Officer; Angus, her cryptozoologist brother; Dad, the shed-dwelling, ex-bikie, cricket lover; Nancy, the dorky new girl in town and Mum, the matriarch trying to hold the whole sorry mess that is the Underhill’s together with only a pasted-on smile in her tool kit.

Clancy tells her own story and her voice is a breath of fresh air in a genre usually filled with bratty, whining, self-obsessed, parent-hating, nobody-understands-me, no-one-has-ever-suffered-like-me heroines. She tells her own sad, touching and poignant coming-of-age story with such wit and liveliness that it was a pleasure to read.

This is Christopher Currie’s first book for Young Adults so he was probably not told that originality and three-dimensional characters were not required, thank you very much. Anyway, it is written and printed now so it is too late. We have a YA Aussie classic on our hands. If the ABC are looking out of a quality teen drama to spend my hard earned tax dollars on they need look no further.

If you are going to read one coming-of-age teen book this year let it be this one. You will be very glad you did.


* Corrected ‘of’ to ‘off’, on 28 Feb 2016 – ed.

About Tim Hehir

Tim Hehir writes novels, short stories and plays. His YA novel Julius and the Watchmaker is published by Text Publishing.
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  1. I’m sorry, is this what passes for serious critical writing these days? Tim Hehir may have written a YA novel, but one has to ask how many he’s actually read. His dismissal of 40 years of YA ‘heroines’ is as breath-taking as it is revealing, and his perhaps sarcastic remarks about originality and characterisation are not merely off the mark, but are completely out of place in a journal that purports to publish serious criticism. If one of my Year 9 students handed this in, they’d cop a fail.

    Also, YA isn’t a genre, it’s a readership.

    As the signs on the picket lines go, I can’t believe I still have to protest this crap.

  2. Is there anything more typically Melbourne lit scene than the needless Prue & Trude-esque sniping at popular fiction in the last few paragraphs?

    Grow up.

  3. I second the comments of Judith Ridge. Perhaps this was intended as click-bait? Certainly, ignorant dismissals of YA literature are known to function as such.

    In the long term, though, the Review would be better served by reviews written by experts.

  4. Judith just took the words out of my mouth. Only someone who hasn’t read widely in YA could assert that originality and three dimensional characters are “not required”. And what’s the negative emphasis on “heroines” about? Very critique of a class of books that deserves much better.

  5. (Obviously the missing word is “poor”. As in “very poor critique”.)

  6. “This is Christopher Currie’s first book for Young Adults so he was probably not told that originality and three-dimensional characters were not required, thank you very much” I beg your pardon? What kind of disdainful, dismissive and just plain misinformed attitudes does this reviewer bring to books for young people? How about we give YA books to reviewers who a) have ANY knowledge of the genre, as clearly Tim Hehir does not and b) some respect for those who write, edit and publish books for young adults.

    Snide, stupid and, unfortunately, ignorant. Are those the attributes you require from your reviewers, MRB?

  7. Christopher Johnstone

    Thank you to everybody who has taken the time to provide feedback. We understand that we’ve made a mistake in our responsibility towards the works that we review. We have listened to the criticisms, and we would like to apologise. Our committee has prepared a full apology, posted here:

    If anyone would like to provide a letter of response, we will be happy to publish it.

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