It wasn’t until I started reading this YA novel that I realised how little contemporary fiction there is about male teenage protagonists and their lives. In fact, all I could recall was Maureen Johnson’s Boofheads, which was published quite a few years ago.
Besim has a unique insight into what makes a teenage boy click. Mostly his dialogue is true and the emotional depth of his characters is also true. I thought that sex would have been a driving force in a book about a seventeen-year-old – lots of talk among boys about girls -- but that doesn’t happen. Yes, there is one sexual episode in the book, but it is glossed over.
Here is a book written by a young man in his early twenties who clearly remembers the angst of the teen years. Narrated by seventeen-year-old Nathan Thompson, My Unforgettable Year tells of the teenager’s trials and tribulations as he negotiates his final school year. On the surface, Nathan seems to have it all. He's the goal-kicking footy superstar from the small town of Kyabram. And he’s managed to snag the attention of beautiful, rich Katie who is new to town. However, his life and future at times seems doomed, especially as his over-bearing father, Mark, desperately wants Nathan to be the next national AFL player to make his town proud. Instead, Nathan plays footy for fun and dreams of university and a career in architecture.
When problems arise in his life, Nathan is often explosive and erratic, for instance when he resorts to physical violence against a footy team-mate. He is constantly on a hormonal roller-coast ride. Sometimes he seems mature and wise, other times he acts like an emotional juvenile. His emotions range from feelings of betrayal to disrespect to satisfaction to love. Often, like any teenager, he struggles with peer relationships, at times querying the motives of Katie and his best friend Matty. Nathan’s relationship with his ambitious father, whom he mostly detests, is tempered by his warm relationship with his mother and brother, Josh. Luckily, he has two positive male role-models, his Coach Garry and teacher, Mr Hazelman. What works best in the book is how Besim manages to capture the tension and action of an ongoing football match from a player’s perspective. The role of his coach is beautifully captured.
For the most part, though, this is a book about things that matter to teen boys – footy, mateship, partying, studying, examinations, thoughts of the future, and relationships with parents, siblings and peers. The book deals, too, with the big issues of bullying, death, and falling in love. Overall it’s an ambitious novel as the reader follows Nathan’s difficult, but ultimately successful coming of age. It is, as the book says, an unforgettable year.
My Unforgettable Year is available from all library suppliers, Dennis Jones and Associates or wholesale from Morris Publishing Australia’s website http://morrispublishingaustralia.com. It is also produced and available as an eBook and on Amazon, Smashwords, Apple and Kobo.
Adem Besim was born in and lives in Kyabram, Victoria. He is presently studying for a Diploma in Professional Writing and Editing at Bendigo TAFE. Adem started his writing journey at 14 years of age.
He says, "I started writing because I'd always had a passion for it from when I was a child and went into bookshops with my father, and sat in on author visits at school. I have always felt at my most happiest and inspired when writing. That's how I knew that this was what I was born to do; there was nothing else I felt more certain about."
This is his first published novel, but I know it won’t be his last.
I'm sure your young teen readers will love this book and learn some valuable life lessons.