For Queensland-based visual artist Sue McPherson, her writing in ‘Brontide’ is characterised by a rawness associated with young adult literature. The Wiradjuri author, also known for her work on the award-winning novel turned mini-series, ‘Grace Beside Me’ (2012, Magabala books) is able to artfully communicate a coming of age narrative in the most succinct manner. The 144 pages of ‘Brontide’ are told in an interview structure covering only five days of time, focussing on four teenage boys sharing their honest experiences and views, often humorously, in a school storytelling workshop.
This text could easily be read in one sitting, as the south-eastern Queensland setting is brought to life. The language of these recorded interviews is coarse at times, and certainly reflects the level of realism which McPherson is trying to capture. The cautionary tale that embeds this engaging piece of literature is a welcome conversation in the lives of young people and their obsession with risk taking. Each of the four boys, Jack, Benny Boy, Pen, and Rob, clearly wrestle with their identity and acceptance, and the free verse style of this narrative communicates nuances in heartache for these young men. Nominated for the Small Press Network Most Underrated Book Awards (2019), this text indeed has much to contribute towards cultural and national conversations on identity, masculinity and friendship.