I will confess to being a fan of Dave Franklin's earlier novels - but when asked, I've only ever been able to describe or classify them as "rant novels", which, incidentally is a good thing. I was very pleased to hear there was another book out, but GIRLS LIKE FUNNY BOYS surprised me. Very much. Sure there's a tiny bit of "rant" in there, but this book is considerably more.
GIRLS LIKE FUNNY BOYS is the story of Johnny Goodwin. Growing up in a quiet Brisbane suburb, with loving, if not slightly batty parents, a faithful dog and a big crush on his teenage sweetheart, Johnny is just a normal sort of an Australian kid. Who dreams of a career in show biz, maybe a life with Angie, and some way to dodge that weird Gina Wood, even though she once let him touch her....
This book is very much a coming of age tale. I'd suspect it's the story of a lot of teenage boys - getting older, balancing peer pressure, with family life, a desire for the love and safety of the known, balanced against the longing for adventure, risk, and let's face it - sex, drugs, booze, rock and roll, fame and notoriety, and excitement. Johnny is an absolutely wonderful character - an open, caring, kind, faithful teenager, he grows up into the entertainer he always wanted to be, playing the part he always wanted - the big, famous comedian, with the gorgeous ex-Gladiator girlfriend. He becomes the ultimate example of don't wish for what you want, because you just might get it. Seemingly with everything he's ever desired, he's still searching, still fighting against the machine, still longing to be that young suburban boy, with the faithful dog (whose death he's never quite come to terms with), still secure and safe and still with Angie.
Johnny's supported by a great cast of characters - his parents, loving, vaguely distant. An older brother alternatively worshipped and hated. There's also his school friends, many of whom fall by the wayside as Johnny's career takes off, some of whom he seeks out as his life takes a weird turn and he finds himself acknowledging that what he wanted, might not be what he needed. All the teenagers in this book - boys and girls are wonderfully real and present throughout the entire story. Even Johnny's live in lover Jen, the ex-Gladiator and major league nutter is a fantastic character, as is Gina Wood - the weird girl, the subject of much lust and considerable disquiet in Johnny for a large part of his life.
GIRLS LIKE FUNNY BOYS wasn't what I expected it to be - and that's simply not fair as Dave Franklin's not meant to be writing to a formula. But I really didn't expect to find this as engaging, as involving and quite as emotional as I did find it. I loved Johnny, rode the waves of his life every step of the way with him. I laughed out loud at points in this book, and find myself sniffing back tears at other points. I felt for Gina, and was scared of Gina, I worried about that lunatic Jen and what on earth she was going to do to Johnny.
Most of all I just loved this book.