Clancy 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.