‘The Boy From the Mish’ by debut author Gary Lonesborough is a beautifully articulated and heartfelt own voices story that will stay with you long after the closing pages.
The protagonist is 17-year-old narrator Jackson, who lives on the NSW South Coast, and is anticipating the arrival of his Aunty Pam and young cousins from Sydney. Every summer his Aunty and cousins come and spend Christmas with Jackson's family - but this year is different. Trailing behind Aunty Pam is Tomas, who is just out of juvie and is staying with Aunty Pam for a while. Jackson initially glances at Tomas indifferently, annoyed that he has to share his room with this quiet, edgy stranger.
But this is the summer things are going to change for both boys as they find themselves slowly drawn to each other. As the two boys start working together on an art project, Jackson finds himself fighting his growing feelings for Tomas, leading to inner conflict as he struggles both with his identity, and the crossroads he finds himself at in regard to his future. Will Jackson have the courage to embrace his true self and figure out which path to take?
There is much to be discussed around themes of identity, prejudice, culture, toxic masculinity, love and family. This story also shines a light on the ways in which engaging in art can lead to growth and healing. The superhero character Jackson and Tomas create a character who finds his inner strength and identity which reflects the growth of both boys as their bond deepens.
The beating heart of this coming of age story is the love between Jackson and Tomas - the scenes between these two portrayed with such tenderness it makes your heart ache.
Gary Lonesborough is a Yuin man who grew up on the Far South Coast of NSW.