Bro by Helen Chebatte

Published: 1st February 2016 (print)/1st June 2016 (audio) Goodreads badge
Publisher:
 Hardie Grant Egmont/ABC Audio
Pages: 240/MP3
Narrator: Julian Maroun
Format: Audiobook
Genre: Young Adult
★   ★   ★   ★  – 4 Stars

What happens when you mix teenage boys, a fight club, and ethnic rivalries? 

You get war.

Romeo Makhlouf knows the rules.

Stick with your own kind. Don’t dob on your mates or even on your enemies. Respect the family.

But even unwritten rules are made for breaking.

I wasn’t sure I was going to like Bro but Chebatte definitely surprised me. It isn’t a long book but it one that is important as it talks about trying to fit in when people class you as different on both sides, and the pressure of being loyal to your family roots, all with a delightfully Australian feel.

This is Boys ‘R’ Us meets Hate is Such a Strong Word  in all the best ways. It is, I’ll admit, very Australian. One could say too Australian, but I have heard teenage boys speak to one another and aside from the lack of swearing, it sounds like this for the most part (so many bros!). It takes some getting used to but I quite liked the tone of voice Chebatte used, especially how Julian Maroun narrated, it felt very real; you really get the sense of these teenage boys who are trying to be cooler and tougher than they actually are and the tired effort the adults are going to to try and help them

Chebatte uses the male point of view quite well, demonstrating the conflicts between the races at school, girl trouble, and trying to find where you belong, something which reminded me of Ayoub’s Hate is Such a Strong Word for the female perspective. I liked Romeo as a narrator, I also liked that Chebatte balanced him but not too evenly. He has some sensibilities but he is still a young boy with wild ideas and a feeling of invincibility. You clearly understand his conflict about who he is and whether he is Lebanese or Australian, and how even though he was born here he still doesn’t feel like he belongs. This conflict drives his decisions and affects the decisions he makes, right or wrong they may be.

There are many aspects I recall from my own high school days in here, just the scenes Chebatte has set up about classes, canteen lines, and group dynamics, even though my experience wasn’t the same as Romeo’s school in a lot of ways, it still feels familiar. The plot can be criticised as childish and absurd, but in the way that most teenage conflicts are, they are petty and ridiculous and fought for nothing, and yet at the time, it’s the fight you are willing to stand for no matter the consequences.

I was apprehensive about this book, I genuinely thought I wouldn’t like it but I’m glad I read it. It tells the story of the danger of boys and their masculinity, peer pressure, “national pride”, racism, and trying to belong. It’s a book people should read about feeling different, and the consequences of male pride.

You can purchase Bro via the following

Dymocks | QBD

Booktopia | BookWorld

Amazon | Amazon Aust

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