Boy Down Under
I didn’t know what exactly to expect from Boy Down Under, but I’m sure it’s not what it turned out to be – a quirky, mysterious paranormal romance between the new kid in town and a boy who can whisk her away for rendezvous in places unknown.
Rowena “Ro” Maven has just moved to Australia for a year. Her mother is an educator whose work takes her to Sydney, and Rowena is uprooted and left feeling lonely and insecure in her new environment. And then she meets Patrick Carroll. He literally drops in on her balcony and drags her to a flower-filled place Rowena knows can’t exist – but it does, and just a few footsteps away. Rowena has no idea what to make of Patrick. She can’t remember between his visits what he looks like exactly, except that he wears a white T-shirt and jeans. She also can’t say – or type – his name to anyone. Her lips lock up when she tries to tell anyone about her new boyfriend.
Every time Patrick shows up, he takes her off to a new beautiful place – a private waterfall, a deserted beach, a rose garden in full bloom. He doesn’t appear to have lascivious intentions, but neither does he reveal the reasons for his appearances. Rowena has a hard time getting him to talk about himself at all. She simply doesn’t know what to make of him or her developing feelings for him.
The mystery of what or who Patrick is really propels the story and feeds its momentum. This is a short book, easily read in a few hours, and the pages fairly turn themselves in their effort to reveal the enigma that is Patrick. Rowena’s outsider status and isolation are not explored in depth; they are more background reasons for her involvement with Patrick than the driving themes of the novel. The story feels a lot like a ghost romance with Patrick showing up unexpectedly and knowing what Rowena is thinking and feeling all the while remaining invisible to anyone but Rowena.
But while the story and the romance were enjoyable, the resolution of both felt more like where the story should begin rather than end. In other words, round about page 208, it was just getting good. The way the story wraps up also leaves some big questions about what will happen if and when Rowena returns to America at the end of her year abroad. Also, there is a subplot with a friendship of Ro’s that goes awry, and it’s left hanging a bit.
There are other problems with the characters. The secondary characters of Ro’s friend Hallie and Ro’s mother frequently seemed more multi-dimensional than Ro herself. In some ways this book has a gothic feel to it – only it’s not at all creepy. Rowena is the stand-in for the reader, but without the first- person point of view. The main focus is the mystery and what will be revealed about the shadowy romantic figure of Patrick. But because Rowena’s characterization is undetailed and Patrick remains a riddle to the end, the ultimate result is an interesting plot being played out by rather amorphous actors.
Still I would recommend Boy Down Under to anyone who enjoys a touch of the paranormal and to young teens for whom a hint of romance remains a thrill. This is a good story; I just wish it had continued on for a 100 or so more pages – long enough for the characters to reveal more about themselves and their relationship.