Making Laws for Clouds by Nick Earls

Nick Earls (who I think of as Australia’s Nick Hornby) branches into YA fiction with Making Laws for Clouds.

It’s a simple story set over one hot summer. Eighteen-year-old Kane meets new-girl-in-town, Tanika Bell.

She looks like Kylie Minogue to me, or as good as you get round here. Kylie Minogue from around the time of ‘Locomotion’, but with much more original teeth.

Although he has Tanika on his mind, Kane is also managing his job (he’s in charge of road verges in the local council maintenance crew) and his family. Kane’s father left years ago and his mother has ‘bad days’ (not helped by large quantities of rum).

Making Laws for Clouds is honest and realistic. Although published in 2002, the story has a naivety which suggests another time (the seventies or eighties, perhaps). And yet, Kane’s problems are timeless – how best to pursue the girl of your dreams; how to manage family tensions; and how to find your place in an adult world.

Earls’s humour is wry and really shines in a few particular parts of the story, notably the church nativity play in which Kane finally gets a decent role –

It’s my first speaking part – Magus Three, the carrier of myrrh. But I’ve done three years as a shepherd (non-speaking), so it’s fair enough…  people probably knew I was shitted off with being a shepherd by now too. If they looked they could tell. The second year I worked hard with that crook, and all it got me was another year as a lousy fucking shepherd.

Equally, small observations about particular situations and characters reveal so much more. Of his obese mother, Kane reports –

It’s the chafing, her thighs chafing. That’s what she says, and she says chafing’s hell and she doesn’t say anything about hell unless she means it. She says if they wanted to make hell they could forget the eternal fire and just go for a long hot summer with lots of chafing.

When it comes to the deeper message, Earls retains a light touch – it’s heartfelt, straightforward and well-pitched for his audience –

And it turns out my parents might not have meant a lot to each other after all. It wasn’t that things went wrong. It’s more that they were never right.

3/5 Solid YA that doesn’t gloss over the hard stuff.

I’m steering with one hand, but it’s no problem. I can ride with no hands if I need to. I’m stuffing Meatosaurus pizza into my mouth, losing pieces of meat of three types all over the road. It’s worth the extra buck sixty-five, undoubtedly, but best not eaten on a bike.

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