Some books sit on my reading horizon for an inordinately long time. And so it was with The First Third. I’m not sure why. I knew it would be an excellent read, CBCA Older Readers shortlisted in 2014 and well recommended by my reading friends.
One page in and I regretted not reading it sooner. This is a story that truly belongs to its characters. Not just the protagonist Billy, but Sticks (his best mate) Yiayia (his grandmother), Kate (his mum), Hayley (the girl he meets at the hospital) and his brothers Peter and Simon.
Yiayia Filyo is an indomitable force in Billy’s life. Her presence holds the family and the story together. While some people face possible death by putting their affairs in order, Yiayia puts her family in order from her hospital bed, providing Billy with a list of tasks to complete on her behalf.
Sometimes the solution she has in mind isn’t quite right and Billy has to improvise. He also adds a task of his own. Sticks has cerebral palsy and reluctantly ended a developing relationship before his partner could find out. But first, Mum needs a husband and there are many humorous moments as Billy and Sticks try to make that happen.
Billy’s brothers are an even more difficult task. Simon is contentedly happy but far away and Peter is so sullen and inaccessible it makes no difference that he lives in the same house. Billy cannot change their lives, not even for Yiayia, but sometimes change finds a different way through and the ultimately life-changing event for them all, brings the family together.
With Hayley and her young son, Billy finds a new appreciation for the value of family. One Yiayia knew he had all along, when she entrusted him with her bucket list, giving it first to Hayley to pass on to Billy.
Through skilful characterisation, themes of culture and identity and of family and friendship are explored.
I loved this book. It’s a testament to why older adults like myself read Young Adult fiction. We never grow out of the need for stories like The First Third.
There is laughter and love, humour and wit in these pages. If you haven’t read it, don’t wait like I did.
Reviewed by Sandy Fussell
Title: The First Third
Author: Will Kostakis
Publisher: Penguin Australia
Publication Date: $17.99 RRP
Type: Young Adult Fiction