Sean Kennedy (b 1975 Melbourne, currently resides in Perth WA) has now authored two books in this Young Adult series. He already has a number of gay paperback titles under his belt but this series carries a potential message for LBGTI youth Australia wide. In the first of this series, he introduces Micah as a final year High School student in Melbourne who has to wrestle with the familiar problems of coming out complicated by his desire to excel (and play professionally) AFL.
In this book, he has succeeded in his ambition and has been transferred as a young (very young – 19) player with the Freemantle Dockers in Perth WA (the author clearly knows both environments). He is not an entirely happy camper (sorry about that) as he has plenty of unresolved issues from Melbourne with friends and family which he is able to re-visit on away matches and his life in Perth with an albeit supportive mentor and boarding family.
There is little direct narrative apart from his revisiting his Melbourne life, his career match playing activities and his adoptive family life in Perth particularly with Dane, the gloomy brother of his mentor Sam.
There is, however, sex. Yes, 19 year old AFL premier league players have sex – surprise! Micah is no exception and proves to be an accomplished user of Grindr to supplement mother thumb and her four daughters. However, it all seems lacking and incomplete for our young hero and he gradually becomes aware that he needs to put his life in the two cities on a more settled (adult?) basis, mend some of the errors of his past and find himself a network of friends and friends with benefits that will be viable for him on an ongoing basis.
Unsurprisingly, after a deal of angst, he manages a change of direction, receives support from unexpected quarters and seems set for a more interesting, stable and more broadly-based life pattern.
I only have two quibbles about this book. One is the language which is entirely printable (as it probably needs to be) but which leaves me wondering at times exactly what kind of language would have been more realistic (I would like to hear it). The author tried hard with appropriate use of social media and music but I wonder if things could have been a little more gritty (there is alcohol, drugs and barebacking consequences to deal with) while not falling foul of some form of censorship. The other relates to the handling of a key episode toward the end of the book when Micah and his mentor have a deep and meaningful that is a pivotal. It reads as wordy and again lacking in realism.
I am probably being too harsh for what has been attempted and produced here. We need to celebrate an effort that covers themes so close to many of us and also manages to embed it in an environment that needs to be supportive at all levels of its players and supporters. I seem to be on a sporting LBGTI roll lately with books on Indian cricket, English football and how Aussie AFL. Anyone for NRL or Rugby Union?