Challenge 21 ~ “A book a parent recommended.”
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
As is usually the case with McCaughrean’s novels, the reader falls into The Middle of Nowhere from the very first page – a feat many novels fail to achieve. The storyline is set in the middle of the Australian Outback, an environment many us are completely unfamiliar with, and yet all at once you feel intimately acquainted with the landscape. This is, of course, a necessity as McCaughrean begins with a world of adventure, hurling the reader on a fast-paced and crazy adventure before they have a chance to say ‘Sydney Opera House’.
The chapters unfold, and the reader just has a chance to get into the swing before everything changes. All of a sudden Hogg arrives, and the reader is slammed into a steadier and more sombre environment (with McCaughrean’s writing capturing the atmospheric change to perfection.) In the space of one single chapter, the reader is left, still ecstatic from the crazed frivolities and still mourning the loss of Comity’s mother, with a strange, uncomfortable Hogg thrown into the mix. The dislike is instantaneous.
Adventure soon strikes up after Hogg’s arrival, but it lacks the lightness of the previous, heavy with the weight of moral injustice and cruelty. With so much happening, the pace slows a little, but McCaughrean keeps the balance of mystery and action going well. That is, until, towards the conclusion. As the reader reaches the final few chapters, the plot seems to veer off on a tangent that adds little to the story, and inspires little within the reader. It doesn’t drag the ending out in a meaningless blur, but the odd and unsatisfactory ending is a jarring conclusion to the novel, and for me at least, knocked it from the winning post of the Carnegie Medal.
The Middle of Nowhere was a real rollercoaster of a novel, through which McCaughrean’s mastery of atmosphere has the reader addicted like a drug. It was a well-deserving nominee on this year’s Carnegie shortlist, although I have to agree that it wasn’t quite medal-worthy material – the ending was just too awkward a fit to do the novel justice. Still, a fantastic read with true literary finesse.
Recommended for fans of:
- Out of Shadows by Jason Wallace
- The Wall by William Sutcliffe
- The Silver Sword by Ian Serraillier