Six Impossible Things by Fiona Wood

There are a lot of YA by Australian authors getting plenty of buzz in book blogging circles lately, and I’ve been eager to read them. Luckily, Holly at The Book Harbinger is hosting a book tour for Six Impossible Things and Raw Blue – two Aussie books that aren’t available in the U.S yet, but are getting rave reviews. I signed up pronto, and got the first slot for Six Impossible Things. ๐Ÿ™‚ Thank you Holly for hosting this book tour and letting us read your personal copy of these books. That is what I call generous.

The Premise: I love the one already on the back blurb: “Fourteen year old nerd-boy Dan Ceriell is not quite coping with a reversal of family fortune, moving house, new school hell, a mother with a failing wedding cake business, a just-out gay dad, and an impossible crush on the girl next door. His life is a mess, but for now he’s narrowed it down to just six impossible things… ”

My Thoughts: Poor Dan.Things do not begin well for him in this story.ย  Just a few months ago, Dan lived with both his parents in a spacious house in a well-to-do neighborhood and went to a prestigious private school. They had the appearance of a happy, perfect family, but problems were surfacing.ย  Dan’s parents had been fighting more and more, until finally, his father drops “the bombshell – the family business was in the hands of receivers, he had been declared bankrupt, he was gay, and he was moving out.”

Now, it’s just Dan and his mom in a stinky, freezing house left to them by an eccentric great aunt. All their possessions (owned by the business it turns out) have been taken away, and Dan has to go to public school. In the break before Year Nine of school starts, Dan is pretty miserable. He dreads being the new kid and hopes he can reinvent himself into something a little more normal and a little less nerdy than he actually is. And he falls head over heels for the lovely girl next door, Estelle, before he has actually ever officially met her.

When you look at the set up of this story, it has the bones for something quite dismal, but thankfully, it is not. In fact, I fell in love with Dan’s voice, which is of the long suffering teenage boy variety (reminds me of Adrian Mole without actual diary entries). When Dan puts his situation into words, somehow, the humor his take infuses into the story makes things seem less bad and a little more ridiculous. Take his mother’s idea to go into the wedding cake business, for instance. Dan notes, “She’s going to be making wedding cakes. It wouldn’t occur to everyone in the throes of a marriage breakdown, but we do irony in this house in addition to sarcasm.”ย  He is further appalled whenever he walks into the house during his mom’s consults, and overhears his mother encouraging yet another bride-to-be to consider not getting married at all. When his mother plays Radiohead on repeat and extols the virtues of Thom Yorke, it is DEFCON 1 up in the Ceriell household.

So navigating his new life doesn’t start well, and it continues to have its share of disaster, like being zeroed in on by a bully on the first day of school and getting a job to help his mom, only to find out that he won’t be paid. Luckily, it has its triumphs as well, and these ultimately win out over Dan’s bad situation. Dan goes from trying to keep himself unobtrusive to actually making friends, and there are plenty of unique characters and impossible situations that provide fodder for his observations. Dan himself is revealed in his narrative – his nerdy list making (always 6 items long); his insightful musings; his soft spot for Howard (their dog); and his concern for his mother – all endearing traits.

Then there is of course his crush on Estelle. This begins a little uncomfortably for me, because Dan had yet to meet her and he’d already put her on a high pedestal. His thoughts are sweet but border on obsessive:

“It feels as though I’m thinking about Estelle most of the time. As though someone has changed my default setting to ‘Estelle’ without my permission, or she’s become my brain’s screen saver. Desire has merged with a (completely alien) noble feeling of wanting to be able to offer Estelle my absolutely best self.ย  The power of this is undercut by not really knowing what my best self is. But it’s got to be more than the current sum of parts.
All this churning and I haven’t even met her. What’s she going to think about me? Uncool me? Trying-to-hide-the-nerd me?”

I think that part of Dan’s crush is the lonely place he’s in after his dad left, but thankfully as things get better for him, Estelle becomes more human.ย  Dan gets to know her as a person and they form a proper friendship. It’s because of this, not his first crush on her that I ended up rooting for Dan to get the girl he likes so much. The relationship was a nice subplot toย  to Dan getting his bearings after life was upended.

This ends up being a pretty heartwarming story, with some bits where I felt that Dan got lucky with the help he and his mother got from people around them, but I feel like Dan earned his happiness after what he went through. Dan is very funny, but the story isn’t just funny. It has sweetness makes it hit that surprising place where you are in between laughter and a bit of tears. Laughter wins out.

Overall: I loved this one. I picked it up and could not stop reading because of Dan’s voice. I think I’m just a sucker for a narrator that has both a sense of humor and plenty of vulnerability. That perfect mix is hard to find, and while Six Impossible Things is something that’s aimed at the YA and younger audience and has a simple premise, it also has a complexity to it that makes it feel more substantial than it’s 240-ish pages, and more universally appealing. Pick it up if you are looking for a feel good read with comedic appeal.

Buy: FishpondWorld (free shipping!)

Other Reviews:
The Book Harbinger – positive
Chachicโ€™s Book Nook Review – positve
Inkcrush Review – 5 stars

16 thoughts on “Six Impossible Things by Fiona Wood

  1. Holly is so nice for organizing a tour for this and Raw Blue. I hope Aussie publishers are paying attention, we want these books to become available internationally and not just through fishpondworld. My own copies of the two books are with fellow Filipino book bloggers.

    This book was so much fun to read, right? I wanted to read it because of the positive things that I’ve heard from Aussie book bloggers and I wasn’t disappointed. Also, I’m a fan of fairy tale retellings and a male Cinderella is an interesting thing. I would love to see Fiona Wood write something that would fall under older YA.

    • Yes, very nice of Holly to do a Book Tour!. And I’m happy that I ended up loving it too. I probably will be buying my own copy.

      So I read about the Dan Ceriell = Cinderella thing on some people’s reviews but this felt like a nod to the fairy tale rather than that this book was a retelling to me so I didn’t go into the retelling part in the review. I see the author says she has Cinderella elements, but, yeah, the title could be a nod towards Alice in Wonderland too, but I don’t think it’s an Alice in Wonderland retelling either. I dunno. I didn’t want people to expect a retelling when I didn’t feel like it was a real retelling., At least for me it wasn’t, but it could be that I have a stricter idea of what that means? I think I’d accept “has Cinderella elements” over “retelling”. OMG, I’m thinking way too much about this.

      • Hmm you have a point there. It really was more of a nod to the fairy tale rather than a real retelling. Haha and yes, I think you’re thinking too much about it but then again, that’s what we do when we discuss details of the books that we read, right? I think that in general, it’s easy to put elements of a fairy tale in a contemporary story, I believe there are several stories influenced by Cinderella or Beauty and the Beast out there but it’s rare to find a retelling outside of fantasy. But maybe that’s just my opinion.

        • Hmm, I dont know if I see more retellings in fantasy than contemporary. I have to think about it. Maybe BEAUTY AND THE BEAST is hard to do without the fantastical element of the hero being a beast though. I have a contemporary Cinderella on my TBR that’s called PERSONALLY, I BLAME MY FAIRY GODMOTHER – should be interesting how much of a retelling it is.

          • You’re right, it’s hard to do B&B without the beastly appearance of the Beast. Maybe that’s why Cinderella is a more common retelling. I look forward to seeing your review of Personally, I Blame My Fairy Godmother.

  2. Aww, no problem! Regardless of the scale, nothing makes me happier to lend out books I own. ๐Ÿ™‚ It’s just the icing on the cake that you happened to love it as well. I mean, I thought you’d like it, but I had no idea it would be of the head-over-heels variety. Your reaction made me very happy indeed.

    Your review is thorough and articulate as always. The line stating the irony of Dan’s mom starting a wedding cake business was one of my favorites. Likewise I felt like the descriptions of Dan’s crush on Estelle were spot on. The witty writing and Dan’s voice were definitely the standouts for me.

    Now to weigh in on your discussion. I knew going in it was supposedly a loose Cinderella retelling from a guy’s POV but I forgot that it was supposed to have anything to do with Cinderella’s story when I was actually reading. I had to look for the Cinderella elements but then when I did, they weren’t too hard to find. I agree that it isn’t a real retelling in the sense that it follows the fairy tale in a faithful and original way.

    Anyway, I’m tickled that you fell in love with it. Thanks again for the great review. ๐Ÿ™‚

    • I wish I had friends who lived nearby to lend to! The last person I lent to was my brother, and he forgets where he puts things. I had to search for my own books through his shelves. He’s a bum.

      Thanks. I had a few favorite passages (I think I noticed the one where he reacts with “Guys, please, one life-changing shock at a time, I felt like saying.” is quoted a lot in reviews – loved that one!)

      it’s definitely more influenced by Cinderella rather than a faithful retelling. Maybe I will still add a “fairytale retelling” tag to the review though. ๐Ÿ™‚

      No problem, really enjoyed my first book tour.

  3. Chachic’s copy is now with me, and I’m very excited to read it. ๐Ÿ™‚ From the looks of the reviews, it looks like a fun and witty book. ๐Ÿ˜€

  4. I keep hearing so many wonderful things about Aussie authors! I have two Melina Marchetta titles (Jellicoe Road and Saving Francesca) on my TBR pile that I can’t wait to get to. This title and Raw Blue also look fantastic, so its frustrating that they’re not available here in North America (though I can buy the ebook for Raw Blue [from] which is awesome!)

    • i know. Must make trip to Australia to raid their bookstores! I have JELLICOE ROAD on the TBR too, and i swear, the new goodreads suggested reads – so many Aussie books like RAW BLUE and GRAFFITI MOON are on it. Sigh. Well thank goodness there is fishpondworld, although it’s sort of expensive compared to what we’re used to paying for books, I hear their prices are the prices people pay for books in Australia. (Ouch).

  5. oh your review has made me all nostalgic for the book โค

    i couldn't stop reading it either for the same reason ~ just dan's voice. i can't wait to read more by fiona wood ๐Ÿ™‚

  6. This sounds great! It would be nice to see it release in the US. Or I might buy it, read it and donate it to my local library. That’s a thought.

    Janice, you have to read JELLICOE ROAD. It’s SO good!

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