The Flywheel by Erin Gough (Hardie Grant Egmont, 2015) was shortlisted for the CBCA Book of The Year Older Readers 2016 and longlisted for the Inky Award 2016. Did it made the Inky longlist due to cameos from the Marx Brothers?
“Inside of a dog, it’s too dark to read.”
Delilah sent her Dad on holiday and is helping out at the family cafe, The Flywheel, while he de-stresses in Mongolia. When Dominic the cafe manager gets deported, Del decides she can manage things on her own. Unhappily, disaster stalks Del at every turn.
“The sound of terracotta smashing on concrete has a surprising musicality, possibly due to the curve of the clay and the varying sizes of the shards.”
The Flywheel is haemorrhaging money, losing customers and suffering from belligerent ex-employees. Delilah has enough of the bullies at school, and stops going, with the added bonus of freeing up time for the cafe. At first only Lauren is on her case but evasion of Year 11 co-ordinator Mrs C soon becomes a full-time job. Luckily there’s distraction in the form of flamenco dancer Rosa at the tapas bar across the road. Despite managing to trip and fall every time they meet, Del begins to think her crush might lead to more.
“I wonder if there’s a greater pleasure in the world than making Rosa Barea laugh.”
There’s so much going on in Del’s life and after a while I got bored of one calamity tumbling into another. The cafe, school, girlfriends – each ran its course, drawing out the tension, until the solution jumped out at Del and she was onto the next. Was the point to make her life as farcical as the Marx Brothers? Slapstick is fun, but 300 unrelenting pages is too much for me.
With Delilah liking girls, I figured that got rid of the possibility of some dumb, hot boyfriend, sadly Charlie the best friend is just as bad. Self-centered culinary wizard, ruggedly handsome and dragging Delilah through his shit. Just dump him Del!
The whole Mrs Cronenberg saga seemed pointless. I understand her wanting to talk with a bullied student who is obviously not coping, but Community Services doesn’t care about 17 year olds skipping school to go to work. And the juxtaposition of Del making financial decisions for the cafe when she’s not the owner, and still a child according to Mrs C was unrealistic.
The illustrations were part of that fun! Not only the world maps that paper The Flywheel’s walls, but graphs showing plummeting cafe fortunes and what might befall the competition. Hardie Grant continues that annoying tradition of not crediting the designer, but I’ve never known an illustrator not to be credited. The internet tells me Amy Borrell designed the cover and I assume she’s also the illustrator.
I look forward to where Erin Gough’s writing takes her in the future, hoping for a detour away from farce.