Published by Allen & Unwin on August, 2010
Genres: Coming of Age, Contemporary, Romance
â€˜Miss Amelia Hayes, welcome to The Land of Dreams. I am the staff trainer. I will call you grasshopper and you will call me sensei and I will give you the good oil. Right? And just so you know, Iâ€™m open to all kinds of bribery.â€™
From the moment 15-year-old Amelia begins work on the checkout at Woolworths she is sunk, gone, lostâ€¦head-over-heels in love with Chris. Chris is the funny, charming, man-about-Woolies, but heâ€™s 21, and the 6-year difference in their ages may as well be 100. Chris and Amelia talk about everything from Second Wave Feminism to Great Expectations and Alien but will he ever look at her in the way she wants him to? And if he does, will it be everything she hopes?
Sometimes you need a great no-fuss contemporary read to cleanse away the not-so-good reads you’ve been reading. That’s what Good Oil was for me, especially on a day where I felt like doing not much of anything. Unable to further delve into the very plot-driven YA book I was previously attempting, I felt like something light and easily read. I chose Good Oil and needless to say I’m very happy I did.
Like a lot of other YA contemps, Good Oil is motivated mainly by the characters inside the pages and you don’t need to second-guess each action and motive to try and stay ahead of a twisting plot. It offers a great escape – a perfect one, really – and one I can relate to immensely.
I think any Aussie reader will be able to relate to the everday comings and goings of our characters, as the book is set smack-bang in the middle of Sydney’s suburbs. Somehow the backdrop of the story manages to seep into every facet of the book, and it was a welcome change for myself after reading so many American-based YA titles. They’re subtle changes (dialect, humour, etc.) but they make a big difference and somehow manage to round the characters out really nicely.
Amelia was a good protagonist for the reader to ‘live’ through while reading Good Oil. Sure, she’s very young, but her trial of unrequited love will resonate true with a lot of readers, despite their age. It wasn’t hard to understand why she fell for someone like Chris. He was a very likeable guy; friendly, intelligent and had a wicked sense of humour and way with words.
I basically laughed aloud at everything Chris said, especially in his diary entires. ‘But she aint’. The invitation he sent out to everyone near the end of the book was great, too. He’s a very real character and I marvel at the way Laura Buzo expertly created a believable male voice.
The relationship he shared with Amelia was fantastic, too. They had a very real friendship and this, above else, drives the story. Despite the age difference and vast contrasts within their personal lives, I couldn’t help but want them to get together just a little, if only for Amelia’s sake. Who hasn’t wanted the universe to give them a break just once?
I suppose my love for this book has a lot to do with my own personal experiences working at Woolworths. Laura Buzo manages to capture the atmosphere perfectly; from the stubborn heirarchies to the inter-department relations, from the tiresome shifts to even those pesky, ridiculous fruits and vegetables we checkout operators past and present have so much trouble trying to identify. I only wish my shifts had been half-exciting as hers were with a fun guy like Chris on hand.
Good Oil was a great story about growing up, understanding the emotional mechanics within relationships and embracing your passions and beliefs.
Recommended to: Anyone that’s a fan of light, contemporary reads (especially Aussie readers). Good Oil is very much dialogue-orientated, which makes it quite easy too breeze through on a lazy afternoon or evening.