Bootstrap, by Georgina Young

Received from the publisher, Text, at no cost. It’s out on 19 July 2022, $32.99.

As a time travel/ romance set in Australia, this book is fine. A pretty slow start – there’s a lot of setting up of the small town and the two main characters – but the second 2/3 is pretty well paced. There are some quirky ideas, the characters are believable (and recognisable, for Australians at least), and it’s… fine.

Yes, I know that sounds like damning with faint praise. And it is fine! Truly! I didn’t mind reading it! But… it’s not outstanding. Sadly. For a YA audience that’s not read many time travel stories; or for Australians who have never seen themselves on the page before, maybe it would be different? I don’t know.

I have a couple of issues with the book. The first is with the blurb writer – note, please, NOT with the author. The book itself literally references The Time Traveller’s Wife. So when the blurb calls this a “genre-bending” novel? No, it’s not. Jonathan Strahan’s new anthology is literally Someone In Time: Tales of Time-Crossed Romance. So time-travel and romance isn’t new. Even making it queer doesn’t make it new.

The second issue is the language. It’s very Australian. In fact, I would go so far as to call this excruciatingly Australian. I am a big fan of stories being told in the vernacular, but this felt like the author had first written the story in more generic English and then went back and switched everything to the most ocker she possibly could. For instance: “I get a schnozz full of water” (138), “I wanna touch him” (140), “And it’s like finally, ya nong” (144) and so on. Piles of Aussie slang (logs in the toilet) and references to Australian brands (Lemon Fresh, a man eating a Barney Banana ice cream “shoulda gone a chocolate Paddle Pop, idiot” (58). It just ends up feeling like the author is trying too hard. But maybe I’ve become an elitist and I don’t appreciate what kids in small towns really want to read. So if this works for those kids, awesome! It just means I’m not the right audience, and I’m fine with that.

4 responses

  1. I disagree with the above review on several levels: it wasn’t YA, but AF; there were a few too many Americanisms for me; I found it an utter page-turner. And what, really, is “genre-bending” these days? As someone whose preferred reading is non-fiction in this age of mass-produced identikit tales, this novel was refreshing, engaging, thrilling at times, well-written and, a few Yankisms aside, deightfully Australian.
    Highly recommended. A great gift idea for friends who are tired of the dross out there. I read the book from the library, and have just ordered a copy for myself. Four stars out of five.

    1. I don’t know what AF is?
      For me, genre-bending means doing something new, or unexpected, within a genre’s generally-understood narrative conventions. As I said in my review, perhaps it will be seen as genre-bending by people who haven’t read extensively in the genre – and that’s great! It just means I’m not the audience. It also means, though, that the blurb (as I also said, this is NOT the author) shouldn’t make extravagant claims that the novel doesn’t fulfil.
      I’m very glad you enjoyed it, though! And getting yourself a copy is awesome!

      1. Hi Alex. I’d like it if you could recommend some titles to try out. As I said, I don’t read that much fiction & I do like to support Oz talent.
        I am reading “American Rust” by Philipp Meyer. Don’t know why! It looked interesting I guess. Having just read “Bootstrap” it struck me that both novels have the decay of rural towns as backgrounds, and both are written from different points of view! Though Meyer’s characters aren’t written in first person.
        AF = Adult Fiction in my library; YA is Young Adult and I think JF is Junior Fiction. Lots of books for “younger audiences” seem better than “adult” ones!
        Thanks for reading my review/reply, and responding.

        1. Oh right, of course that’s what AF is. It was marketed to me as YA, hence my comment about it; also the teen protagonists. I don’t know the Meyer. If you’re keen on trying some Australian fiction, then Year of the Orphan by Daniel Findlay, and Trucksong by Andrew Macrae, both come to mind – they’ve both been out for years, both kind of post-apocalyptic Australia. As you can guess from the blog I read a lot of SF so if there’s another sort or style you’re interested in, I’ll do my best to recommend! (There’s a lot of other excellent Australian SF too – all three of Claire G Coleman’s books are astonishing, for example.)

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