Review: The Beauty is in the Walking by James Moloney

The Beauty is in the Walking by James Moloney is an incredible tale that is part coming-of-age story and part murder-mystery. Except the one in question who is murdered is only a horse. So don’t panic too much. (This book doesn’t tangle very deeply in the dark side.) It is narrated by Jacob who also has Cerebral Palsy. And it’s an Australian homegrown book! So much to love here!9780732299941

What’s it About?

Everyone thinks they know what Jacob O’Leary can and can’t do – and they’re not shy about telling him either. But no one – not even Jacob – knows what he’s truly capable of. And he’s desperate for the chance to work it out for himself. When a shocking and mystifying crime sends his small country town reeling, and fingers start pointing at the newcomer, Jacob grabs the chance to get out in front of the pack and keep mob rule at bay. He’s convinced that the police have accused the wrong guy; that the real villain is still out there. And he’s determined to prove it – and himself – to everyone.

 

When I heard about this book, I leap towards it for several reasons. (1) The Aussie factor always wins me over because I don’t read nearly enough books from my own country. (2) Jacob is in his finale year of highschool and facing Big Life Decisions, which is always relatable, and he also has cerebral palsy, which is something I’ve only read about in one other book! (That book is Say What You Will by Cammie McGovern.) (3) THERE IS A MURDER MYSTERY. And it was a good story! I read it in just a few hours because it’s super short, but it was definitely satisfying and wonderful.

Jacob is a pretty awesome protagonist. He didn’t let anything hold him back. Plus he was sassy and capable and just downright cool. He stood up for himself to bullies, but he still was venerable and suffered a lot with his condition. He felt frustrated when people judged him unfairly because of it. And, well, I was so frustrated with how other people would judge him. There is cruelty and discrimination in this book, some of it accidental, and some of it intentional.

The plot is 80% school and 20% “oh things are dead”. But, like I said: animal deaths. So a horse and a pig have been murdered and the town is blaming the local Muslim family for it. Jacob wisely says, “hey where’s your proof!” and therefore he kind of gets caught up in debunking this unfair blame game.

I loved the amount of diversity in this book! Such a good representation of Australia, too, since we’re quite the multicultural nation. Not only does it feature disabilities — it also touches on racism and cultural differences.

The Beauty Is In The Walking is a quick and fun and engaging. I definitely learned more about CP, which is grand. And I think Jacob was a winning dude and I seeing the world from his perspective. Also the Aussie slang and culture just made the book feel endlessly homey. Plus someone gets called a “dingbat”, which just goes to show how awesome we Australians are at insults. I loved the relationship between Jacob and his older brother, and I loved the emphasis on finals and “what do you want to do with your life”, which is a question I think all teens relate to. It’s a solidly good book and definitely recommended!

 

[purchase here]

Books & Christmas with James Moloney

Meet James Moloney, author of The Beauty is in the Walking

(Angus&Robertson, HarperCollins)

James Moloney is a statesman in the world of Australian YA and children’s books.  The hilarious Black Taxi and Kill the Possum for YA and Dougy, Swashbuckler and Buzzard Breath and Brains  for children are among my favourites of his books. I store his novels behind glass in my special cabinet for revered Australian authors.

Black Taxi

Thanks for talking to Boomerang Books, James.

Where are you based and how involved are you in the world of children’s and YA lit?

I live in Brisbane, where I write in a cabin at the bottom of my yard. I’ve been writing YA and books for younger kids for thirty years. My first novel was published in 1992 and after my next five titles did very well I took the risk and gave up my job as a teacher librarian to become a full time writer in 1997. I’ve enjoyed writing fantasy as well with ‘The Book of Lies’ being my best known. Since I’m now close to fifty titles, I suppose I’m classed as ‘an old hand’ in the world of YA lit.

What is the significance of the title of your new novel, The Beauty is in the Walking?Beauty is in the Walking

Ah, tricky answer that one. The publishers did not like my original title, which happens sometimes. (I had to change the title of my first novel, in fact). We workshopped ideas for a new title until an editor at Harper Collins come up with this. I liked it straight away for its lyrical sound and the way it nailed Jacob’s attitude towards his disability. It also linked nicely to his self-proclaimed expertise as a ‘connoisseur of walks’ stemming from his growing teenage attraction to girls.

Only later did I discover the words are part of a quote from Welsh poet Gwyn Thomas, ‘The beauty is in the walking – we are betrayed by destinations’ but now that I do know, I like it even better.

There is a big push for diversity in YA lit. What diversity have you shown in this novel?

I wrote this novel partly in response to a challenge from an old friend/editor to explore how disabled teenagers seek love and explore their sexuality. Since people with a physical or intellectual disability have always been marginalized throughout the world, telling a story about a boy living with cerebral palsy could be seen as showing diversity. It’s important to understand, though, that I didn’t self-consciously build the story around that theme, any more than I set out to write my novel ‘Dougy’ and its sequel ‘Gracey’ because the main characters were Indigenous Australians. In both instances, I wanted to tell a good yarn that I felt compelled to write. I’d like young people to read ‘The Beauty is in the Walking’ as the story of a boy growing up and moving into the next phase of his life who happens to have a disability.

A second example of diversity in the novel is the Lebanese Muslim family that Jacob becomes involved with. The story is set in a country town where communities can sometimes be slow to embrace non-Anglo and especially non- European ethnic groups, especially after recent terrorist acts by people of Middle Eastern origin. Readers will note that Jacob has very little contact with Soraya and virtually none with Mahmoud, the boy he attempts to exonerate after the boy is falsely accused of a disgusting crime. Jacob is only partially motivated by anti-racist sentiment. Mostly he undertakes the role of defender to prove himself and rise above the ‘disability’ prejudice that is holding him back.

How did you create the character of Jacob?

Like I always do, I spent some time trying to ‘be’ him, to think like a seventeen year old with CP, reading about how young people cope with their disability and I interviewed a women in her early thirties whose CP had consigned her to a wheel chair since her teens. She had recently had her first child. The results were surprising. A lot was written and said about the assumptions that able-bodied people make about CP sufferers, especially the tendency to assume a person with laboured movements and speech must be intellectually disabled as well. I was also pleased to hear that many people with CP are highly mischievous and have a great sense of humour.

How important is writing about boys for you?Buzzard

Gracey’, ‘Angela’, ‘Black Taxi’, ‘Bridget: A New Australian’ and the entire Silvermay fantasy series are all written in the first person from a female character’s perspective, so I do write about girls. However, I’m seen more as a writer for boys and I have written and spoken extensively about encouraging boys to read, so definitely, it is important to me. I think I have an innate understanding of a certain type of male character stemming from my teen years. I have often said that writers need to have something to say and mostly I say it to boys. My characters tend to share a lot with me in their interior lives so perhaps the importance to me is the continual exploration of my own masculinity. I‘m very aware that boys don’t easily externalise self-doubt, anxiety and their deeply felt needs thanks to social expectations so it’s important to explore such things in novels about boys which boys can quietly delve into as a counterbalance.

You’ve written many books, including award-winners. Could you tell us about some?

My earliest award winners were ‘Dougy’ and ‘Gracey’ which seemed to strike a need at the time to understand the experience of Indigenous Australians. Dougy saves his much loved sister, Gracey, from the violent madness that briefly overcomes their small outback town. I continued the story with that sister’s experience when her athletic ability wins her a scholarship to boarding school. Her years there separate her from her cultural roots and she has to re-make her personal identity in order to cope.

bridge to Wiseman's cove‘A Bridge to Wiseman’s Cove’ is the one everyone loves. Winner of the Children’s Book Council award in 1997, it tell of lonely, overweight Carl Matt whose been abandoned by his mother in a seaside town where his family name is roundly despised. When he leaves school to work for and ultimately save a struggling barge service, he finds new strengths in himself and forms the friendships that help him understand there is love and a place for himself in the world.

How else do you spend your time?

I love movies and TV series like Game of Thrones and Breaking Bad. I read, of course, in order to shamelessly steal ideas from other authors. I ride my bike for exercise and I’ve even ridden around Europe, although any image of the Tour de France you might create in your mind is laughably inaccurate.

Which books would you like for Christmas?

I see Anne Tyler has a new book out – ‘A Spool of Blue Thread’. I love her work and Isobelle Carmody has finally finished her grand series with ‘The Red Queen’. But really, I’d like someone to choose a couple of great new YA novels not set in a dystopian land or part of any series and put them under my tree. Christmas is a time I go into bookshops to really look around. I often give books to family as presents (and they do the same for me) and then we end up sharing them around.

All the best with The Beauty is in the Walking (which I’ve reviewed here) and thanks very much, James.Book of Lies

 

 

SILVERMAY BY JAMES MOLONEY

Silvermay is the first book in the Silvermay Series by acclaimed Australian author, James Moloney, and it’s going to leave readers wanting more.

Sixteen year-old Silvermay falls for Tamlyn, a handsome young refugee who comes to live with his ‘wife’ in the village. When the couple are forced to flee once more, Silvermay goes with them to care for the newborn child, named Lucien.

But Lucien is more than he seems and soon Silvermay finds herself in sole charge of him while ruthless forces come searching.

Whom should she trust? Tamlyn, her love, who has no wife after all, or an aging scholar who offers her escape?

I found myself totally immersed in Silvermay’s world. Felt I was side by side with her, battling those who want to take Lucien, the baby she has sworn to protect.

There’s plenty of action as Silvermay faces internal and external conflict, and her story raises moral dilemmas and issues of friendship, loyalty and trust.

There’s a lilting quality to this book; beautiful language and vivid imagery that draw you into the world of the story.

Silvermay is only 16 yet the weight of the world has been placed on her shoulders. She’s vulnerable and likeable. The first person style brings Silvermay closer to her readers and involves you in her feelings and emotions.

Silvermay’s voice helped me connect with her character right from the start. Brave, yet impulsive, wise yet naive, she is a complex mix of contradictions that make her believable and endearing to the reader.

Death had never once asked for my attention in the sixteen years I had spent learning to love the people closest to me. Now it demanded it’s due in one unbearable charge. Rage took hold of me. It wasn’t right, it wasn’t fair, that someone as good as Nerigold could be snatched away, that all the years of love and kindness she would have given to the world would never be lived. If my eyes stayed dry as I leaned over her body, it was because I was willing her to come back and live those years.

I loved the world and the characters created by James Moloney in Silvermay and look forward to reading Book 2, Tamlyn and Book 3, Lucien.

Silvermay is published by Harper Collins and is intended for readers aged 10 + but I can see it appealing to older teens and adults as well. It’s an easy to read book so would also work well as a class text.

 

JAMES MOLONEY TALKS ABOUT SILVERMAY

Award winning author, James Moloney has 35 books published. Today he is visiting Kids’ Book Capers to talk about his brand new Silvermay Series.

I asked him how he became a writer.

Once I began to enjoy books and reading, (about 16 years old) I started to think about writing. Early dabbling went nowhere, but when I became a teacher librarian I focused on children’s stories and found I liked it. An additional prompt came when I moved to an all-boys school and found the boys reluctant to pick up novels. The challenge was to get them in with stories I’d written myself.

What do you enjoy most about being a writer?

Not having to work! Actually, writing is hard work, except you have no boss but yourself. You are also living in your imagination instead of doing things that others want you to do which can become tedious or don’t really interest you.

What is the hardest thing about being a writer?

The isolation is hard, at times. Making yourself do it, having the discipline and patience is a challenge. The first draft of a complicated and intensely emotional book is harder than climbing mountains.

What were you in a past life (if anything) before you became a writer?

I was a primary school teacher and teacher librarian.

What is your greatest writing achievement?

I am most proud of A Bridge to Wiseman’s Cove which won the Book of the Year Award, because it is a powerful story of loneliness and redemption.

What are you working on at the moment?

I am writing a story for 9 to 13 year olds called Only the Heart Knows about an Australian boy who discovers his great grandfather was an infamous stage magician who is thought to have committed a great crime.

Do you have any tips for new writers?

Read, read, read, first of all. It is the best training there is. Write, too. If you don’t actually sit down and do it out of personal drive and interest, you are probably fooling yourself that you want to be a writer.

On the technical side, plan the ending before you start a story – otherwise you are lost right from the beginning.

Do your books have any consistent themes/symbols/locations. If so, what are they?

My fantasy stories are all a struggle between good and evil, which is kind of expected. I like to find different ways to explore this, however. Eg. In the Silvermay sagas, the Wyrdborn act so despicably not because of any evil force inside them, but because they are born without any compassion for others and the ability to feel love.

All my fantasies are all set in a Tolkienesque medieval world because I love shining armour, swords and the rest.

Anything else of interest you might like to tell our blog readers?

I have already written the sequel to Silvermay, titled Tamlyn and it will be released in June 2012. I’ll start the third book soon but it won’t be out until June 2013.

After reading, Silvermay, I don’t think I’ll be the only one looking forward to that one.

ABOUT SILVERMAY

What inspired you to write this book?

The idea of the Wyrdborn as a race who aren’t evil, as such, but act in evil ways because they have no human feelings that guide others to share, to trust, to love etc. I was also keen to try a female protagonist, since that is a challenge for a man. I find new challenges inspiring and without that you can go stale.

What’s it about?

Sixteen year-old Silvermay falls for Tamlyn, a handsome young refugee who comes to live with his ‘wife’ in the village. When the couple are forced to flee once more, Silvermay goes with them to care for the newborn child, named Lucien. But Lucien is more than he seems and soon Silvermay finds herself in sole charge of him while ruthless forces come searching. Whom should she trust? Tamlyn, her love, who has no wife after all, or an aging scholar who offers her escape. This is a rollicking adventure with moments of high romance and the final scene will have readers on the edge of their seats.

What age groups is it for?

As young as 10, but more for 13, 14, 15 and up to adults.

Why will kids like it?

The fast pace, the warm-hearted romance, the mystery, the dilemmas Silvermay faces, her courage and inventiveness. It is not a hard book to read and will get readers in from the first page.

Can you tell me about the main character and what you like/dislike about her?

It is a challenge to create characters that aren’t simply clichés and stereotypes. I also don’t like female heroines who have to be ‘saved’ or protected by males eg. Bella in Twilight. I think Silvermay is a good balance between a feminine girl who cares about how she looks, but doesn’t count it as the most important thing about her, who can ride a horse and shoot an arrow, even to kill a man if necessary. Yet she cannot take a life without great pain to herself. If there is anything I don’t like about her, it is the way she treats a character called Ryall, a boy her own age who only wants to help, but at first she is mean to him.

Is there something that sets this book apart from others?

The exploration of evil as the absence of humanity, perhaps.

What did you enjoy most about writing this book?

I loved getting into Silvermay’s head and giving her lots to do. She takes the lead more often than not and comes through, despite her fears.

What was the hardest thing about writing this book?

Avoiding clichés that can crop up in fantasy – magical swords, the use of magic to get a character out of trouble as a kind of cop out.

Silvermay is a great read and I’ll be reviewing it tomorrow at Kids’ Book Capers.