Attention Patrick Ness Fans: April Book Giveaway

Ness-philes, get excited – this month, each of our Boomerang Books Members are in the running to win a signed copy of 2008 Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize Winner’s latest, and a signed preview of his upcoming trilogy-ender. The full prize list includes:

Not a member? Sign up today.

APRIL FACEBOOK GIVEAWAY

Are you on Facebook? Don’t forget to join our Group for your chance to this prize pack that includes:

A big thanks to our friends at Celapene Press, Ford St, Frances Lincoln Children’s Books, Pan Macmillan for supporting our giveaways this month. and Walker Books.

BONUS GIVEAWAY

You have until Friday 9 April to enter a special Patrick Ness competition. We’re giving away… an extract. While it doesn’t sound like much, this is actually a special preview of Ness’ yet-to-be-released Monsters of Men, and it’s signed! All you have to do is email me, and in 20 words or less, tell me why you should be the lucky Patrick Ness fan that gets it.

KEEP AN EYE OUT…

Those that have been reading the blog know how enamoured I was with the Gone book trailer, well, later in the month, we’ll be giving 10 copies away to Boomerang loyalists, so keep your eyes peeled for details.

Boys & Body Image: A Reflection On Shane’s Post

I think, as a twenty-year-old, I can still speak for this current teenage, male generation – even just a small, nerdy, poetry/novel-writing subsection of it.

Body image is everything.

I remember hearing once that boys feel the pressure more than girls, for two reasons: 1. for girls, it is accepted to have these issues, and 2. while girls have the ‘get slim’ clouding over them, boys are burdened with the ‘get slim, but also gain muscle’, which results in over-exercise and strain. Not to diminish the experience of girls battling body issues, I can only speak as a young male, but I remember that in the lead up to my novel’s release, I wasn’t busy writing a follow-up, I was consuming protein shakes, exercising five days a week, restricting calorie intake, feeling guilty for a beer or a soft drink – and it caught up with me, I slipped two discs in my lower back, and that’s an injury that will restrict me for the rest of my life. Because being a teenage author wasn’t enough. At least, in my mind it wasn’t.

And when men explore these body issues in articles or novels, the response is usually ‘oh, boo hoo, poor baby’, when that same exploration by a woman is lauded as brave. When more realistically-shaped women attack the Jennifer Hawkins ‘real woman’ nude, undoctored spread, they’re glorified. The pressures on women are front and centre, and condemned. Meanwhile, when I’m at the gym, and I see boys almost half my age lifting weights, nobody’s telling them to stop, to have a childhood, to let their bodies mature a little bit – nobody’s fighting for them because the image of the male as ripped, toned and sporty is socially accepted as ‘right’. It’s masculine. There’s no backlash. There’s nobody praising male curves, claiming they’re all natural.

And body issue problems for males are very, very secret. Because, outward feelings don’t mesh well with the image of masculinity – strong, stoic, emotionally stunted. And I mean, just look at this rant that has developed from what was supposed to be a two paragraph closer to Shane’s post – this is a big issue, at least, for me. Books like My Private Pectus are important. While they probably won’t change the world, I’m sure that for boys battling body expectations, it means a lot to know that 1. you’re not alone and 2. there’s someone fighting for you.

Ahem. Now I’m off to make up for this post with a 7km run.

EXCLUSIVE: Shane Thamm gets PRIVATE…

SHANE THAMM ON MY PRIVATE PECTUS AND BODY IMAGE

The other week on ABC radio I was discussing boys and body image when the compere asked me if I had ever shaved my chest.

“I did once,” I told him with great enthusiasm, which was actually an attempt to hide my embarrassment.

We were talking about boys and bodies in relation to my novel My Private Pectus, a story that deals with male teenage body image concerns.

The compere, it seemed, wasn’t convinced that body image was something that many boys were worried about.

So I put things into perspective: Australian youth rated body image alongside drugs and family conflict as their three issues of greatest concern in Mission Australia’s Survey of Young Australians in 2008. Twenty per cent of boys and one quarter of girls called body image a serious concern.

Given that backdrop, My Private Pectus and the story of its main character Sticks, is actually very common. Teenage boys, like girls, negotiate body image concerns, often fraught with doubt and despair.

But for Sticks, his life seems even more complicated than that. He lives with a father who wants to him to turn into what sounds like a robotic man. It’s about doing well at footy, and getting into the army. It’s about achievement at the expense of emotion or civility. Sure, Sticks would love to score the winning try (and of course the cute girl), as well as everything else a man’s meant to do, but whenever he tries, it just goes pear shaped.

He falls in love with a girl the boys all hate, he reverses his best mate’s car into a retaining wall, and he vomits on his Dad’s best friend’s Turkish rug. It couldn’t get worse. But of course, it does. He has a secret chest deformity. It’s called Pectus Excavatum, and it rears its ugly head during the teenage years. It causes the chest to concave at the sternum. Sticks keeps it hidden from everyone he can, including his Dad.

My Private Pectus is a rollicking ride about what a boy will do to turn into ‘man’. It evokes images of teenage boys as hormone-driven machines without the capacity to experience doubt, fear, or even love.

Yet these are the things Sticks seems to have too much of. He’s constantly trying to summon strengths that are emotional, not physical; and in moments of intimacy, he’s confronted with very real fears about what people might think about his chest.

My Private Pectus is stacked with those sticky moments that every teenager seems to find themselves in. Those moments we look back on in later life and laugh and cringe.

It is, I think, a great book for high schools, not only because it’s the only book that intimately deals with male body image concerns for teenagers, but because it raises a host of questions about alcohol, casual drug use and relationships.

A few weeks after that first ABC radio interview, I had another one with the ABC in Alice Springs, where I had spent much of my childhood.

The compere told me that My Private Pectus is like a Judy Blume novel but for teenage boys.

“What do you think of that?” she asked.

“Great,” I said, but with reservation. I was actually wondering, who the hell is Judy Blume? What am I agreeing to here?

Thinking the name sounded familiar, I went home and did my research. Considering I had studied literature at university I couldn’t believe I didn’t know this famous American novelist.

I sat back and thought, “Geez, I hope that she’s right.”

– Shane Thamm