By Rhonda Dredge
If it doesn’t bring you joy, don’t do it. This is one of the many pieces of advice that pepper Loner, the winner of the Text Publishing young adult fiction prize for 2020.
The CBD-based publisher offers the prize each year along with a publishing contract.
The contract must have brought joy to author Georgina Young, a graduate of RMIT.
It has also introduced readers to Lona, the witty heroine of this picaresque novel who has dropped out of art school and is taking quite a while to find her feet.
If Lona prefers to examine her feelings to pleasing her parents or boyfriend, why shouldn’t she? If watching Buffy makes her truly happy why can’t she be left alone with her TV?
As Lona crosses town by train or in an Uber on her adventures, there’s only one person who really understands her and that is Tab, her best friend. Together they are riding the rocky road of examining society’s expectations.
“Tab recently explained to her that taste is just another name for internalised misogyny. So that smug feeling she gets now, hearing the crowd sing back the lyrics to a song that is too mainstream and not the band’s best, is really just a manifestation of self-hatred. Good to know.”
Conversations are constantly dissected for their painfulness, with jokey banter and emoticons being the only way forward. “How are you?” is the most deeply uninteresting question there is in the world, Lona asserts.
At its heart, this novel looks for the truth in platitudes and does a good job of dissecting tropes such as nostalgia for displaced technology. Take the SLR camera that belongs to Lona’s grandfather.
“He liked it when it was new, when it was symbolic of the future and his ability to shape it,” Lona’s mum insists. But Lona likes the camera for the opposite reason. “She appreciates the staidness of analogue technology, the slowness of it.”
The novel is full of such joyful perceptions as well as jokes about visiting stores such as K-Mart, Ikea and Chadstone that should touch a nerve in the shopping-deprived citizens of the lockdown.
When Lona gets a job at Coles she becomes the manager of aisle three. Everyone is a manger of something, she discovers, but in a misguided feminist outburst she questions why girls don’t ever get the trolley shift.
Naturally, she’s offered a trolley shift the next day and ends up stuck in the car park until the inevitable run-in with a vehicle gets her the sack
“The proposition that there are no rules to growing up is inherently wrong,” Lona says at one point. There are rules and almost inevitably they clash.
What do you say, for example, when you want a glass of white? Do you ask for a
Sav Blanc or a Sauvignon Blanc?
If you’ve crossed the Yarra on a Thurdsay night to meet at a bar in Collingwood, there’s a certain etiquette to follow. Go for a “Sauvignon Blank” •