Book Review: Mallee Boys

Mallee Boys – Charlie Archbold – Wakefield Press – Published 30 September 2017




‘Sometimes I feel like I’m neither one thing nor another. I live in the Mallee but I don’t like the desert. I live on a farm but I get hay fever and I’m scared of goats. I like school but my best mates don’t.’

Sandy Douglas knows that life at fifteen is hard, but it’s even harder when your mother died a year ago and nothing’s gone right since. Sandy’s brother Red, on the other hand, is eighteen now and working the farm. He’s amped up on rage and always looking for a fight. And then there’s their dad Tom. He does his best, but – really – he doesn’t have a clue.

As Sandy and Red deal with girls, dirt biking, footy and friendship, both boys have to work out who they want to be, without their mum around. The Mallee, where they live, may seem like the middle of nowhere, but it turns out this is going to be one hell of a year.

My thoughts

Mallee Boys is an enthralling novel that captures the unique voices and lives of two young brothers living in rural Australia as they bridge the gap from childhood to adulthood. Parties, schooling, farming, deadly snakes, grief and loss, family, and friends, Mallee Boys encompasses the simplicity of everyday life and the many complications it brings.

Sandy has only months left of Year Ten. Months to decide if or where he can continue his schooling. Red is happy his school days are behind him. Now he can help his dad on their farm, play footy and hang with his mates. Both boys are still grieving the sudden loss of their mother who suddenly died only one year ago. As their days fill with work, dirt biking, friendship complications, and trouble with girls, both Sandy and Red face decisions that will shape their futures.

Mallee Boys is written from the perspectives of brothers Sandy and Josh (known to all as Red), alternating with each chapter. The writing style is conversational and informal, really digging into the psyche of Sandy and Red, who come across as authentic young men. The story is heavily narrated, almost diary-like, often referring back to past events and providing many retellings of the main plot points.

Uniquely Australian, I think this book has every Aussie slang known to man. I promise we Aussies don’t actually talk like that (at least, not all the time).

The story really hones in on the simple tasks and events of everyday life in rural Australia, something to which many young readers can-no doubt-relate, while others will enjoy this glimpse of rural life. Girls, school, family fights, grief, changing friendships, sports, and the relationship between brother – all are issues that are relatable to this book’s young adult audience.

Mallee Boys is a highly enjoyable coming of age story, where the lives of two brothers come to life against the dramatic backdrop of rural Australia.

The publishers provided an advanced readers copy of this book for reviewing purposes. All opinions are my own.

More information

Category: Young adult fiction.

Genre: Contemporary

Themes: Brothers, grief, relationships, farming, high school, friendship, family, Australia.

Reading age guide: Ages 13 and up.

Advisory: Coarse language, frigg, sh**, ar**, pi**. Drug and alcohol use and references. Violence.

Published:  30 September 2017 by Wakefield Press.

Format: Paperback, 205 pages.

ISBN: 9781743055007

Find it on Goodreads


  1. charliearchbold

    Hi Madison, Thank you so much for the review of Mallee Boys-very much appreciated-and I’ve also now discovered your great blog in the area I’m writing in.

    • Madison's Library

      Thank you, Charlie, for writing such a wonderful book that celebrates the unique rural Aussie culture. It was a delight to read and reviw.

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