Part prose, part poetry. Violent but tender. Harsh but beautiful. Raw but sophisticated. Gritty but surreal. Rapper and poet Omar Musa knows the power of contrast and uses it to great effect in his debut novel.
Solomon, Jimmy and Aleks live on the fringes, both literally and metaphorically. Young migrants and petty criminals, they live in The Town, on the fringes of The City; stand-ins for the NSW town of Queanbeyan – where Musa grew up – and the Australian capital Canberra.
A pretty straight-forward tale of teenage disaffection and alienation then?
Not in Musa’s hands. With his searing honesty and powerful language – much of it written in verse, all of it a heady mixture of street-slang and literary English – he elevates what is a small story about small-town thugs into something vital and universal.
I assume the book is heavily autobiographical – it certainly feels strikingly authentic. Musa turns a world of greyhounds, graffiti, drugs and bar fights into something illuminating, a novel with a great deal to say about Australian society, class, politics, music and human nature.
Next: a sinking feeling