“I knew there wasn’t time. I was trying to buy some, that’s all.”
“That’s exactly what you did, Jake. Sounds to me like you made all the difference.”
…”There was no one else,” I said.
“No, and there didn’t need to be.”
James Moloney, The Beauty is in the Walking
‘Sometimes you’ve got to show some mongrel. There’s mongrel in you, little brother, more than you realise.’
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.
I am currently on crutches (nothing is broken!) and I feel like it was the perfect time to read The Beauty is in the Walking by James Moloney! It is amazing how we take a simple movement like walking for granted and this book certainly showed me how lucky I am! There are two noticeable holes in the young adult market – mental health and disability. While the former is on the rise in 2015 with the likes of All the Bight Places by Jennifer Niven, the latter is still a much-needed area of growth. I can think of two amazing books that deal with disability – The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon and Wonder by R.J Palacio – but they are the only ones I can think of off the top my head. Each one provides an intense insight into the lives of two young boys with a disability and James Moloney has bravely ventured into the unchartered waters and come out the other side with a fabulous book about wanting to be ‘normal’ even when you’re not. Then again, what is normal?
Jacob O’Leary is a seventeen-year-old male living in the country town where he was born. Despite being surrounded by a fiercely determined and protective family and a great group of friends Jacob still feels like an outsider; he is occasionally the victim of bullying and hasn’t managed to land a girlfriend. When a Muslim family moves to Palmerston to guide the local meatworks around the rules of kosher meat, their son is accused of the animal mutilation murders that have occurred around the district. Add in the pressures of the final year of school, trying to understand the female mind and standing up for Mahmoud and what is right, poor Jacob has a lot going on!
Moloney has successfully managed to include a wide range of themes in his book from identity, conformity, race and racism, disability, masculinity, gender roles, romance, media and family. He uses each of Jacob’s relationships to explore the themes; Jacob’s older brother Tyke is stereotypically masculine having left the country for the city to play major league football; Jacob’s over-protective mother represents the fear of the unknown and the ease of familiarity; the accusation against the Muslim boy represents the power dynamics of the media and mass opinion. Jacob is well placed to empathise with Mahmoud and his family when the local media and townsfolk publicly shame them. Jacob’s own struggles are called out on a regular basis; his difference is constantly on show in the way he moves and the difficulties he experiences when talking. There is an incredibly fine line to walk when writing about disability; how do you make a character appear ‘normal’ like the rest without them losing their sense of self and appreciating the way their disability makes them unique and special. Disability should be a part of normal, not a point of otherness.
Jacob longs to do what every other seventeen-year-old can do – play sports, run around being reckless and having a girlfriend. At the same time, you don’t want the character to lose their uniqueness. When Chloe gives Jacob a walking stick with a wolf’s head at the top, he isn’t hurt by the possible connotations of weakness but chooses to feel its strength, embracing his ‘swagger’ and enjoying the confidence he feels with it.
What I love about The Beauty is in the Walking is the way Moloney explores how to find one’s place even in the most familiar environments. Many of Jacob’s struggles are common amongst his friends – who is he and where is he going. As the end of the school approaches, the big wide world can appear to be a very large and scary place. Finding out who you want to be is important, whether you have a touch of CP or not. Congratulations to Moloney for writing about disability in a way that is engaging, honest, and thoroughly enjoyable!
AUTHOR: James Moloney
PUBLISHER: Harper Collins Publishers Australia
PUB DATE: 1 August 2015
Thank you to Harper Collins Australia for sending me a reading copy in exchange for an honest review!