Tuesday, May 17, 2016

'Clancy of the Undertow' by Christopher Currie

In a dead-end town like Barwen a girl has only got to be a little different to feel like a freak. And Clancy, a typical sixteen-year-old misfit with a moderately dysfunctional family, a genuine interest in Nature Club and a major crush on the local hot girl, is packing a capital F.

As the summer begins, Clancy’s dad is involved in a road smash that kills two local teenagers. While the family is dealing with the reaction of a hostile town, Clancy meets someone who could possibly—at last—become a friend. Not only that, the unattainable Sasha starts to show what may be a romantic interest.

In short, this is the summer when Clancy has to figure out who the hell she is.

Genre: YA contemporary, Australian fiction 

This YA novel tackles some really sensitive themes and issues in an Australian small town setting. Clancy Underhill is a 15-year-old girl who quietly deals with feelings of being an outcast. Not only is she a member of the nature club, a fringe group regarded as nerds by more popular students, but she has secret homosexual leanings. Clancy has a crush on Sasha, the pretty girlfriend of Buggs, the town bully. Her problems are compounded when her father, a road worker who assists with traffic flow, finds himself on the scene of an horrific smash which kills two teenagers. Although Mr Underhill claims they were driving recklessly, many locals accuse him of negligence, making him responsible for their deaths. Now Clancy’s whole family, including her mother and two brothers, become targets of angry townsfolk bent on vengeance.

The highlight of this book is the strong characters. Clancy’s family is revealed as slightly dysfunctional, but strong and supportive enough of each other to weather storms. Her parents make excellent role models in standing by each other. Although Clancy gets irritated by her older brother Angus and younger brother Titch, it’s obvious that they are all bound by deep affection for each other.

Angus comes across as an interesting young man with a rebellious streak. He’s decided to leave university and set himself the eccentric task of tracking down the legendary Beast of Barwen, which may or may not exist. Another character who tugs readers’ heartstrings is Nancy DeRosa, the new girl in town who makes friendly overtures to Clancy. The plot reveals a heartbreaking history of bullying in Nancy’s past, forcing her and mother to want to make a fresh new start where nobody has heard of them. Nancy’s part of the story shows the deep scars bullying may leave on a person, no matter how far they run. 

Possible plot spoilers.

I thought there were some inconclusive story lines. We don’t find out whether Nancy and her mother manage to assimilate into Barwen and become accepted by locals. Neither do we see Angus reconcile his differences with his father or begin to find his place in the world. Clancy never really reveals her sexual orientation to her parents, even though a few characters closer to her own age find out. Readers are also left to wonder what Sasha will do, now that she’s found out how Clancy feels about her. That’s a few too many loose ends. And since the matter of who was at fault in the crash is quickly cleared up once autopsies are carried out, that main plot thread seems to fizzle out.  

But having said that, if there was ever to be a sequel I'd be happy to read it, to find out what happens to some of the characters. I'd be particularly interested to follow the paths of Clancy's brothers, and Nancy. Maybe I should mention that there's also quite a bit of strong language.

3.5 stars

No comments:

Post a Comment