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If you liked Jasper Jones or A Fraction of the Whole then you'll enjoy this one too. It has some quite serious undertones about a family in grief and what makes up a community, but it's actually quite funny to read. The book opens in 1950s Melbourne at the wake for the 11 year old narrators twin brother, Tom, who he tragically witnessed falling from the monkey bars. His low-income parents aren't coping very well and aren't much help, and so the narrator copes with his own confusion and loss by falling back on what counts for his community (including his dodgy but hilarious grandpa and his nefarious 'friends', a bunch of classmates he refers to as 'the commandos', a strangely inquisitive couple of neighbours, bent cops, his dog called Biscuit and the local juvenile arsonist).
He also takes to 'lanes and drains', exploring the backstreets, stormwater drains and tunnels under Melbourne, witnessing a murder, saving a local kid from a kidnapper, inadvertently finding stolen goods and engaging in a certain amount of 'Home Alone' style restorative justice when he feels like something is not quite right. Along the way he draws a giant map of Melbourne (above ground and under), which starts out as a record of bad things he wants to avoid, and winds up being a representation of his slightly unusual (but supportive) community. He tackles these adventures with a mix of childish naivety (bringing home a second hand book for his mother called 'hot housewives', as she's always by the stove) and intelligent insight (cunningly lying his way out of trouble when confronted by cops). Most of all, this is just a book about growing up in Melbourne in the 1950s, and a fascinating look at underground Melbourne as well. Four stars.