The Origin of Me, by Bernard Gallate. Imprint: Vintage (Penguin Random House Australia).
“According to family lore, exactly forty weeks after my father won the prestigious and fiercely contested GravyLog® Pet Food account for his advertising agency, I was born.”
With these words reproduced above, debut author Bernard Gallate introduces a beleaguered boy on the brink of manhood, whose efforts to conceal a burgeoning ‘genetic anomaly’ threaten to undermine his teenage years.
In The Origin of Me, Gallate’s 15-year-old narrator Lincoln Locke brings an abundance of angst, a measure of melancholy and a delightful wryness to a whimsical coming-of-age tale-with-a-twist.
The inclusion of a registration mark alongside the brand name GravyLog in that opening sentence also hints at Gallate’s playful approach to storytelling – you’ll find trademark and registration acknowledgements peppered throughout this often hilarious, sometimes shocking and frequently moving novel, alongside actual as well as fictional product and company names.
In the opening chapter, Lincoln’s first girlfriend has accidentally made contact with his genetic abnormality – and unceremoniously fled the scene, repulsed and disgusted.
Lincoln’s resultant self-loathing coincides with a significant disruption to his family life. After his parents separate, Lincoln must move into his dad’s bachelor pad on the other side of the city – away from his best mates – and commence Year 10 at an elite, exclusive and expensive new school.
The Origin of Me documents Lincoln’s struggles to adapt to the challenges his new life brings, including battling to survive close encounters with a band of bullies, dealing with academic and extracurricular successes and failures, and experiencing the uncertainty associated with forging fresh friendships.
With his secret source of great shame becoming increasingly pronounced, how can Lincoln continue to keep it concealed – especially when he is propelled on to the school swim squad and forced to wear Speedos? And what is Lincoln’s connection to the author of My One Redeeming Affliction, a nineteenth-century memoir he discovers in mysterious circumstances?
As Lincoln navigates the perils of puberty and attempts to overcome inequities and obstacles with the assistance of a band of fellow misfits, all is revealed.
Peopled with brutish bullies, an enigmatic hermit, artfully wrought minor characters and kindred spirits who make Lincoln’s troubles tolerable, The Origin of Me is a joyful reading experience from that opening sentence to the last lines.
Lincoln Locke compares favourably to other precocious heroes of contemporary coming-of-age literature, such as Colfer’s Artemis Fowl, Charlie Bucktin from Silvey’s Jasper Jones, juvenile narrator Eli Bell in Dalton’s Boy Swallows Universe and even, at times, Rowling’s Harry Potter.