After reading Confessions of A Liar, Thief and Failed Sex God, it’s easy to understand why Bill Condon’s novel won the YA section of this year’s Prime Minister’s Literary Awards.

It has a distinctly Australian flavour, historical setting, believable characters and great dialogue.

It’s 1967 and 16 year-old Neil Bridges has more than his fair share of issues to deal with. A new teacher has arrived at Neil’s strict Catholic school and introduced himself to the students by giving them all the strap.

What students are forced to endure at the hands of their sadistic teachers pushes some of them over the edge, but not Neil. This is Neil’s year of tested friendships and falling in love.  In the background, the Vietnam War rages and Neil’s brother’s number has just been called up.

This book has many series issues to be faced by the main character, and Bill Condon handles them with such realism that the reader is left feeling that they have just opened the door to a real person’s life.

At times the book builds to an emotional intensity that can be confronting, but Condon uses humour to provide relief, and show the different shades and hues of life.

Neil’s honest authentic voice makes him a complex and likeable character. Here’s how Neil describes his brother with whom he has always had a love/hate relationship.

Kevin is nineteen. I’m three years behind him. Don’t think I’ll ever catch up.

He’s got a motorbike. I’ve got a bus pass.

He’s got his own bank account. I’ve got my own tooth brush.

He’s got Elvis sideburns. I’m secretly using Dad’s razor, but I just scrape off soap.

(Confessions of A Liar, Thief and Failed Sex God – published by Woolshed Press 2009)

This is typical of Condon’s mastery. In just a short passage he has managed to convey so much information about the characters, their relationship and the era in which they live – all with a gentle humour that makes the reader care about Neil and want to know what happens to him.

Even though there is tragedy in the book, there is also hope and healing, and the readers is left feeling that Neil will handle whatever life dishes up to him next.

Confessions of A Liar, Thief and Failed Sex God has strong themes of mateship, family and identity.

Find out more about Bill Condon and his other great books at

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Dee White

Dee White lives with her husband and two sons in a small rural country town which has more kangaroos than people. She has worked as an advertising copywriter and journalist and has had numerous career changes because until recently, writing wasn’t considered to be a proper job. Letters to Leonardo, her first novel with Walker Books Australia, was published in 2009 to great critical acclaim.


  1. Dee – this is a very perceptive review. So true to Bill’s intention. The story is a very personal reflection on what it was like to grow up Catholic boy in the 60s. The voice is so true and honest that it resonates with teens today. A true masterpiece.

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