Steven Herrick, Another Night in Mullet Town, Uni of Qld Press, 27 June 2016, 224pp., $19.95 (pbk), ISBN: 9780702253959
Titles are important: clever titles suggesting much about the novel to come. In Steven Herrick’s latest novel, the title of the book distils the essence of small town life experienced by teenagers Manx and Jonah: the claustrophobia and small mindedness of their seaside existence.
The first chapter opens with the two protagonists sitting on the bank of Coreki lake, imagining their lives as mullets who live in the lake’s murky depths. Once linked to the ocean, the creek that fed the lake is now cut off by a levee of sand and Herrick cleverly extends his watery metaphor by introducing the notion of sharks circling the lake’s boundaries. It serves as an allegory for the story to come; in which wealthy developers and avaricious real estate operators are buying up the town, raising land prices and forcing out locals.
On the surface life for Manx and Jonah appears pretty easy; when they are not at school they are down by the lake fishing for mullet or going to the weekly Friday night parties. Below the surface however, where the mullet dwell, life is much more turbulent; Jonah’s parents never stop arguing and are on the verge of breaking up, Manx only has a dad, Patrick, the rich boy and his followers are giving Manx and Jonah a hard time, and then there is the issue of finding the courage to speak to Ella and Rachel.
Herrick, a master wordsmith of more than 20 young adult novels, has created wonderful characters in Manx and Jonah in this beautifully written verse novel for young teens. It may particularly attract a reading reluctant male audience with its sparse prose and gentle humour, as it explores universal themes such as the importance of family, friends, first love, and change. This is a story about growing up.
Highly recommended. 14+
Reviewed by Mem Capp