Loner


Publication Date: 4 Aug. 2020
Format: Paperback / softback

ISBN 9781922330130

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    Lona has dropped out of art school and no one is quite sure why, least of all Lona. It's just that nothing in her life seems to make sense anymore, including art. She spends her days sneaking into the darkroom at her old school to develop photographs and her nights DJ-ing at the local roller disco.

    Her aimlessness terrifies her, but everyone else appears oblivious to her fears: her parents are bewildered by her sudden lack of ambition, her brother is preoccupied with his new girlfriend, and her best friend Tab seems to be drifting away. Even a budding relationship with a bass-playing, cello-shredding med student isn't enough to shake her existential angst.

    Lona knows it's up to her to figure out what she wants to do with her life: the problem is, she has absolutely no idea where to start.

    Information

    Book Type: Junior High
    Age Group: 15 to 19 years
    Traffic Lights:
    Class Novel: No
    Good Reads Rating: 5/5
    Literary Rating: 5/5

    Review

    There could be any number of reasons for Lona dropping out of art school, but even she doesn't know exactly why she did it. Drifting through life, Lona sneaks back onto campus to develop photographs, works at the local roller disco, does event photography, and lives with her parents. But though Lona doesn't want to change, the world is changing around her. Her grandfather moves in with them, unable to live alone; her best friend Tab gets a boyfriend; and beautiful, bass-playing George seems interested in her.

    Dragged reluctantly from inertia, Lona gets a job as a trolley manager at the local Coles and starts dating George. With her three jobs she scrapes up enough money to move out. Her new bedroom? A single bed protected from the living room by a sheet.

    Meanwhile, Lona's grandfather's health is deteriorating. He's hospitalised, and Lona visits him in hospital and later the nursing home to read him books his eyesight will no longer allow him to read himself. He's quiet, but she hopes he appreciates it.

    When Lona and Tab witness a motor vehicle accident, it impacts Tab far more than Lona -- perhaps because she's already so numb. Tab drops off the face of the earth, and later sends Lona a postcard from the national park where she's staying. When she eventually reappears, their friendship is strengthened. Lona has a new understanding of the vulnerability of Tab, who once appeared indefatigable.

    Tab's relationship with George, though once good, has deteriorated. She's a private person -- a loner -- and he doesn't understand why she wouldn't tell her parents anything about him. When they eventually break up, Lona finds it hard to be affected. She gets drunk and hits on her friend Sampson, who always had a thing for her, then immediately backs out.

    When Lona loses her job at Coles, her depression gets worse. She starts creating art projects from the books her grandfather left behind and organises an art show with her housemates. She also discovers an old roll of film -- photographs her grandfather took, but never developed. Though they still don't talk much, their bond has deepened.

    Lona meets George at a party and realises that while she doesn't love him, she's glad they're friends. She starts a job at a call centre and quits her job at the roller disco -- but she's allowed to go back, to roll in lazy circles on the empty rink after closing time.

    Over the course of this deeply character-driven novel, a series of vignettes record Lona's gradually worsening mental state and her patchy healing process. The depiction of a dryly witty, introspective, pop-culture-obsessed young adult is incredibly realistic. While Lona is never diagnosed, never goes to therapy, and never directly discusses her mental health issues, she does reveal that the reason she left art school is because art -- her greatest passion -- doesn't make her happy; and if art doesn't make her happy, she is certain nothing will.

    Incredibly disheartened, she is trapped in a self-fulfilling cycle of cutting herself off from friendships and experiences that could give her joy and pride. When she begins to create, and socialise beyond her tiny circle again, it's difficult, but ultimately rewarding. Overall, this is a brutally truthful coming-of-age story and an utterly hilarious read.

    Themes

    art, creativity, coming-of-age, relationships, romance, family, mental health/wellness, university, work, dark comedy

    Content Notes

    1. Language: f*ck x 24, shit x 33, bastard x 2, bitch x 1, dick x 1. 2. Adults drinking alcohol throughout. Underage drinking (p. 100). Adults smoking (p. 21, 22). George and Nick (adults) smoke marijuana (p. 209). Lona's roommate (adult) has MDMA in her sock drawer (p. 220). 3. Lona mentions she is reading a book involving sadomasochistic sex (p. 31-32). Mention of masturbation (p. 58). Lona and George kiss. Lona and George have sex off-page (p. 106). Tab and Nick kiss (p. 89). Lona and Sampson kiss (p. 218). 4. Tab and Lona witness a car accident from a distance (p. 129). No-one is killed, but one person has a cut on his head (p. 130). 5. Sculpture has tampons in it which may be used (p. 240).

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