Shortlist year: 2019
Shortlist category: Young adult literature
Published by: Omnibus Book an imprint of Scholastic Australia
Sebastian is at a university open day with his best friend Tolly when he meets a girl. The wrong girl. Her name is Frida, and she's edgy, caustic and funny. She's also a storyteller, but the stories she tells about herself don't ring true, and as their surprising and eventful day together unfolds, Sebastian struggles to sort the fact from the fiction. But how much can he expect Frida to share in just one day? And how much of himself and his own secrets will he be willing to reveal in return?
About the author
Michael Gerard Bauer
Michael Gerard Bauer was born in Brisbane and taught English and Economics in a number of schools in the Brisbane–Ipswich region for more years than he cares to admit before resigning from full-time teaching in 2000 to pursue his dream of being a published writer. Michael is now a full-time writer.
'With life it's all over the place. One minute it's tears. Next minute it's laughter.'
A university future students open day provides the setting for an eventful day of both tears and laughter, humour and pathos, as sixteen year old Sebastian and his best friend Tolly seek guidance about potential future careers. The boys enjoy a deep friendship and share a mantra adapted from the film The Big Lebowski, 'these things will not stand' when they confront something that they believe cannot go unchallenged.
The story is narrated in the present tense by Sebastian (Seb) and opens with a reference to the movie Sliding Doors suggesting to the reader that a romantic comedy is ahead, although the ensuing narrative becomes much more creative and complex through the use of a range of authorial devices including stream of consciousness and flashbacks.
Seb is a Film Studies student hoping to reconnect with the 'right girl,' a Taylor Swift lookalike, who he had met briefly in a lecture, at a screening of Casablanca.Instead, he meets 'Frida' whose quick wit and resourcefulness rescues him from embarrassment when the 'right' girl actually does arrive to see another movie, accompanied by her boyfriend.
Over the course of this one day Michael Gerard Bauer explores the role that trust, honesty and the sharing of stories plays in the development of a new relationship. Each character is well drawn and the conversations authentic. Seb and Frida gradually push each other to share some of their past lives including some experiences they would have preferred to keep hidden. How much is Seb prepared to reveal about himself and his past? Is there something awry with Frida's accounts of her life and schooling?
The narrative is never heavy-handed, bleak or issues-driven. The revelations and their legacies are balanced by surprising and, at times, almost comical events as the day continues, as well as times of joy and music. There are unexpected moments when seemingly ordinary human beings behave like superheroes to rescue those they care about.
The final poignant sandpit scene completes the building of the Sliding Doors concept and suggests that despite the ups and downs of life and the uncertainties of the future, there can be a new beginning.
The Things That Will Not Stand is an honest, thought-provoking and hopeful novel. Its unexpected twists and turns make it impossible to put down. The story celebrates the courage and resilience of these young adults and reminds us of the importance of family and friendship in helping overcome pain and loss. We are challenged to reflect on whether it is time for all of us to question the things that are unacceptable and should not stand.