That Thing I Did by Allayne L. Webster

Reviewed by Antonella Townsend

Concepts planted in our psyche through music and other media unconsciously inform what we create. p. 278

A master class in presenting serious themes with a feather light touch.   And so very funny!

Allayne Webster’s That Thing I Did has all the elements of an intriguing young-adult novel – four young characters on a crazy compassionate quest, one hipster granny, an on-the-road trip in a hearse, a few opinionated ghosts (previous inhabitants of hearse), and, not to forget, an enormous lobster.  Her themes of youth suicide, toxic friends, toxic social media, and domestic abuse are embedded within an uproariously funny plot.

Webster’s wild set of characters makes riotous scenarios seem quite possible; in any case, disbelief is swept away by the sheer force of fast paced writing and plot action that only occasionally slows to a dull roar.

Taylor is in high school year eleven, and has just been dumped by his best friend Cass and her gang of friends, because he posted a sincere opinion on Facebook. He is cut loose from friends and Facebook feeds, consequently is isolated.

His nineteen-year-old neighbour Chip Carter befriends him, and persuades him to be a partner in a thinly veiled on-line porn site Hotties of the Northern Burbs!  Chip drives a hearse, converses with its recent inhabitants, and wears a cravat. The cravat, he feels, is in keeping with the porn director image.  The hearse belongs to his currently incarcerated uncle.  When, recent escapee from same prison as Chip’s uncle, Jackson Rollock turns up in Chip’s backyard, Taylor and Chip are persuaded to rescue Jackson’s granny, Daisy, from her less than salubrious Adelaide retirement home.  Daisy is dying and she has plans to visit old friends in Mt. Gambier.  Jackson loves his grandmother; she is the reason he escaped from prison, to see her before she dies.  Daisy is not your typical frail about-to-die old codger, rather a freewheeling mouthy, pot-smoking hippie from days of yore.  Chip, Taylor, Daisy and Jackson set out in the hearse to accomplish Daisy’s last wish, but while stopping for petrol they acquire another passenger, Chloe, who is in a hurry for a quick get-away from Adelaide and all the grief she carries.

The ensuing road trip is non-stop funny, fast paced, and full of surprises.  Webster writes comedy gold dialogue and allows her characters to zing off the page as they discuss possible career options, the environment, political ideology, and pornography.

And, along the way Chupa Chups of wisdom are imparted.

We’re born to die, yet we all act like tomorrow is a given – that we’ll have the next day and the next to mend our ways.  We hold grudges.  Stay angry.  Why?

 Allayne L. Webster is an internationally published Children’s and Young Adult author.  She has been shortlisted for various literary prizes and has been awarded multiple arts grants.

Highly Recommended

That Thing I Did

By Allayne L. Webster

(2022)

Wakefield Press

ISBN 978 17430 5863 3

$24.95; 336pp

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