The Truants

The Truants

Kate Weinberg

Bloomsbury 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5266-0012-7


 

Whether it’s as basic as skipping school or smoking a bit of pot in the toilets to theft or worse; doing the wrong thing can be alluring. One of the questions Kate Weinberg asks in her novel The Truants is, “could you be driven to kill someone?”

Following the move to University in Norfolk, Jess discovers a sense of freedom for the first time. Being the middle of five children, she’s always felt as if she were invisible, and has mastered the art of being unseen. Bookish and overshadowed by her siblings, university is Jess’s chance to shine. However, after being booted from Lorna’s class “The Devil has the Best Lines” during fresher’s week, Jess feels her world tumbling around her. After a rather intense enquiry to tutor herself, Jess finds herself enrolled in Lorna’s Agatha Christie course instead and is faced with her first challenge: securing the reading-list without blowing her meagre budget. And is it really theft if you plan on returning it? Drawn in by Lorna’s larger-than-life presence and quickly becoming a favourite, it’s almost as if Jess is being seen for the first time.

Having befriended Georgie, Jess finds a social life-line at uni, someone to force her towards the fun things living on campus has to offer. Georgie is wild-willed and Jess revels in her company, forming close bonds with not only Georgie but her mysterious South African boyfriend Alec, who drives a hearse and always thinks up the greatest schemes. Joined by second year geology student Nick, the group are almost inseparable. That is, until it all goes terribly wrong.

With Georgie’s growing drug problem and the rising tensions in South Africa, it seems the fun is over. Jess’s world is about to come crashing down and with no-one else to turn to but Lorna, will it all have been worth it? And who is Lorna, really? Why did she leave her esteemed position at Cambridge to work at Norfolk?

The thrill of doing wrong – and getting away with it – is ultimately captured in Weinberg’s novel as the reader delves into the increasingly complicated lives of Lorna, Alec, and Jess. With authentic, complex characters guaranteed to draw you in and extraordinary wit Weinberg’s writing is a refreshing look at the Christie mystery and the power a charismatic speaker has to influence the lives of those around them. Filled with secrets and mysteries to be solved, The Truants is enthralling. Dealing with a range of issues facing young people including drug abuse, mental and sexual health, and relationships, The Truants is perfect for anyone fifteen and up.

 


Words by Kayla Gaskell

Graduated, Now What? The Post-University Blues…

When I remember thinking three to four years was so far from my immediate future. It seems that before I knew it, graduation had come and gone.

When I hear the word “graduate” or “graduation,” I associate it with success, excitement, a period of transition, and most importantly, an overwhelming sense of fulfilment. I feel as though there is this belief that graduating from university should evoke feelings of pride and success. Unfortunately, my experience, and I’m not alone here in saying this, hasn’t been anything like that and I’ve got a terrible case of the post-university blues.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m incredibly proud of all I’ve achieved during my time. I’m graduating with a Grade Point Average (GPA) of 6.00 and I’ve been a scholarship recipient despite coming from a disadvantaged background. But do I feel excited? Am I overwhelmed by the fulfilment and success with this qualification to my name? The simple answer is no.

Did I set myself up to feel let down? Potentially. Perhaps it was my own overly naive view that if you put in more than the effort required. I completed work experience with a local newspaper, even though it was not a prerequisite and that as soon as you complete your undergraduate degree, that piece of paper is your one-way ticket to full-time employment straight out of university. I don’t know if it is just me, but I feel increased pressure to secure full-time employment prior to attending my graduation ceremony.  For the fear of being viewed a “failure,” or “unsuccessful.”  (Side note: That’s EXACTLY how I feel.)

Since the completion of my degree, I have applied for over one-hundred jobs. I’ve been asked to attend an interview for only one of these applications, and that was a fill-in position for maternity leave. I’ve lost count on the number of hours I’ve spent polishing my cover letters and pouring over my answers to Key Selection Criteria making sure they address exactly what is asked. It was an obsession. Every morning I’d sit down with my cup of coffee and engage autopilot. Apply, polish and pour. Apply, polish and pour. I’ve never been one to fear rejection in the past, but after enduring this vicious cycle repetitively, my soul was scathed. A sense of dread would fill my lungs the more I would click “submit application”.

Eventually, this fear transpired to feelings of self-loathing and a resentment for tertiary education. An investment of both time and money had equated to this. A blank space. One I was trying, ever so desperately to fill.

But I am not alone. The 2017 Graduate Outcomes Survey (GOS) results outline that one in five university graduates were unhappily working part-time in 2017.

In this day and age, graduates are experiencing a much slower transition rate to full-time employment since the Global Financial Crisis (GFC) took its toll on the economy in 2008. The overall rate of undergraduates working full-time has remained on a steady decline. In 2008, the full-time employment rate for undergraduates was 85.6 % compared to 71.8 % in 2017.

Was it my course of choice? The 2017 findings from the GOS demonstrate that graduates with a degree in communications scored within the bottom five, with 60.3% of graduates securing full-time employment. This leaves 39.7 % working part-time or unemployed. Graduates in medicine, pharmacy, dentistry, and rehabilitation experienced the highest full-time employment rate of 95.9, 95.2, 86.8 and 85.7% respectively. This could correlate with the fact that with these degrees, graduates meet professional registration requirements and experience a higher employment rate as a result.

On the contrary, coursework postgraduates experience a much higher employment rate in comparison with their undergraduate counterparts. 86.1% of postgraduates reported being in full-time employment in 2017. This is a one percent increase from 85.1 % in 2016.

So, with that in mind, whilst I am feeling incredibly disheartened in the lack of employment prospects for my study area, there is a glimmer of hope shining brightly on the horizon. I can happily say that I have been accepted and am undertaking the Master of Teaching (Secondary) course to utilise the skills I have learnt in my undergraduate degree as a writing and media major to teach English and media to secondary students. These statistics alone are a promising indicator that I will gain full-time employment and encourages me to think that I’ve made a step in the right direction for my future.


Words by Dakota Powell

Dakota Powell is a postgraduate Master of Teaching (Secondary) student with an undergraduate arts degree majoring in writing and in minor media studies. When she is not working hard to achieve her dream of becoming an English/Media Teacher, she is often found savouring the very last sip of her vanilla latte or completely immersed in a game of AFL Football, and tragically dons the red white and black wherever she goes. To keep up to date, you can follow her @kotastrophes (Instagram) and @kota_powell (Twitter).

Photo by Andre Hunter on Unsplash

Adult Fantasy

Briohny Doyle

Scribe Publications 2017


Briohny Doyle’s Adult Fantasy is an unflinching examination of the cultural mythology surrounding the wispy notion of adulthood. Doyle is in her early thirties and still plagued by the feeling she’s not a proper adult. She doesn’t have her life together like the thirty-somethings in television sitcoms: her writing career is still in its infancy; home ownership is a far-flung dream; she has no desire to be a mother.

More importantly, Doyle isn’t convinced by this list of adulthood pre-requisites. Adult Fantasy sets out to deconstruct the Western fixation on marriage, reproduction, and home ownership and their relationship to the preconceived idea of a functional, successful adult. These institutions are incised with a steady, expert hand. The misogynistic and homophobic history of marriage, the relatively new sanctity of childhood, the impossibly high (and extremely contradictory) expectations placed on mothers, and the near-impossible millennial dream of home ownership, are all unpacked and examined.

Doyle is particularly interested in the generational gap between millennials and their parents and the generational sledging that distracts from a changing and frightening economic landscape. Doyle uses the distance between she and her father, a working journalist, as an example of both a shifting working environment and misplaced generational sledging. Her father is woeful that his daughter is still studying in her thirties, and cannot simply go to the Advertiser and ask for a weekly column. He sees this as a lack of drive indicative of a millennial work ethic, whereas Doyle is quick to point out the sheer volume of university-educated millennials who are unemployed, underemployed or underpaid. For Doyle, this is a sign that things are not the way her father remembers.

As a middle class, mid-twenties writer, who works in what Doyle dubs a ‘survival’ job, I’ve never had a piece of non-fiction resonate so totally. Doyle does an excellent job of navigating an angst-ridden topic without sounding too self-pitying, or too privileged. She interviews a string of thirty-somethings who have chosen varying degrees of adulthood, including a polyamorous triad, divorced thirty-somethings, and a woman seeking life in a commune.

If you’re a millennial stuck by the casualisation of the workforce and impossibly high rental prices, I would encourage giving this book to your parents. If you’re the parent of a millennial, who’s path is taking a different one to your own, I would suggest reading this book and then giving it to your millennial to make them feel less alone.

 

5/5 stars


Words and photography by Riana Kinlough

Adult Fantasy is available for purchase here.

‘Housemate Wanted.’- by Emma Maguire

Melissa wasn’t like the girls I’d met at uni. She wasn’t like the girls from home, either, who drove tractors round their parents’ farms and got pissed on Bundy after Saturday netball. There was something faint and ungraspable about her, like a mirage or a shadow. But one that wears Doc Martens.

One night I got home and found her in my room. She was in her nightie, rifling through my wardrobe. I stood in the doorway, gobsmacked. She didn’t flinch, just smiled and asked me if all arts students dressed like povvo tryhards.

Yeah,’ I said, ‘pretty much.’

She floated past me and I noticed she was wearing my purple lipstick. I felt weird about it but I’d only just moved in so I was too awkward to say anything.

Housemate Wanted, the sign had said. $50 a week. Parkside. Girls Only. The phone number was a landline, and when I called, her accent sounded kind of posh but she had this laugh that was totally contagious. I went to see the place and it was heaps better than the student accommodation Mum and Dad had been shelling out for. A bungalow with a fern garden on a street lined with jacarandas. Real close to town, as well. No air con, but.

Do you have Internet?’ I asked.

Melissa snorted and said no of course not, did she look like a yuppie? I didn’t really know what to say but she dressed so cool, like Courtney Love in her prime but without the druggie vibes, and I reckoned Allison and Janie from Drawing would be really impressed by her so I kind of was too. I moved my stuff in that day and me and Melissa drank red wine in a hammock out the back and she smoked cigarettes while the sun set.

You’ll like it here,’ she said. ‘Everyone does.’

The next week I lost a necklace. A gold coin on a chain. It wasn’t worth anything but I was pissed off because Zach from Film Studies had said he thought it was cool and I was really keen on him. He had big brown eyes and worked out at the gym on campus. I thought maybe Melissa had borrowed it so I knocked on her door but she wasn’t there. It was weird, you know, I never saw her go out, she just wasn’t there sometimes. I wouldn’t have gone in, but her door just kind of swung open. It’s funny what you’ll do when no one’s there to watch you.

Her room had this chemical smell about it, clean but kind of noxious. I didn’t switch on the light because it wasn’t quite dark and there was a bit of glowy sunset coming in the window. The floorboards creaked under my feet.

I had a look on her dressing table, but couldn’t see my necklace. She had scarves strung around the place like cobwebs and cassette tapes spilled from plastic cases. Who plays tapes anymore, lol?

Ammonia, that’s what the smell was. She must have bleached her roots, which were dark as oil. One of her satin nighties was slung over the back of a chair and for whatever reason I put it on over my t-shirt and jeans. In the mirror, in the half-light, I looked almost like her.

I heard the magpies gabbling away outside but then all at once everything went quiet. I had this strange feeling like someone was right behind me.

Then something moved. I realised Melissa was on the bed, had been there the whole time. Maybe asleep under the sheets. I didn’t wait to find out, I just bolted back to my room and shut the door.

After our tute one day Zach asked me out and I said yes. Melissa wanted to meet him so he came round for a beer before we went to the Unibar, but I quickly realised this was a mistake. Once I saw him looking at her, I noticed how long her eyelashes were and how the choker she wore drew attention to her naked collarbones. When she laughed it was like a shower of diamonds falling on you. I felt like the yobbo girl from the country. I sipped my beer quietly.

Come with us!’ Zach said.

But Melissa just smiled and cracked another Coopers.

In the Uber on the way in to town he said in my ear, ‘Have you ever had a threesome?’

I said no and he asked if I wanted to. I didn’t but I didn’t want to say that so instead I asked him what he thought about the silent movie we saw last week for class. The one with the eyeball and the scalpel. Then I suppose I forgot about feeling jealous because we watched the shitty punk band and drank more beer and when he slipped his tongue in my mouth it tasted like Extra peppermint chewies and I got this like bolt of lightning in my you-know-where, and we ended up doing it in the bathroom under the fluoro. His dick was massive, which seemed weird cos he was kind of short. But anyway, while we were, you know, I tried to focus on his awesome pecs but I kept thinking of Melissa spreading my lipstick on her lips and it didn’t put me off, it was kind of a turn on actually, which is weird because I’m not a lezzo or anything. At least, I never was before.

Anyway, when I got home I was still pretty drunk but not that drunk I didn’t think. I was trying to be really quiet. I got myself a glass of water from the tap and I was sculling it when there was that bleach smell again. The moonlight was coming in through the skylight and I know it was hard to see but I swear to God, right before my eyes she just appeared. Like out of nothing. Like there was just empty space and then she faded in and flickered a bit, kind of like a David Lynch movie, and then she was there in front of me.

I pretty much shit myself but she just raised her eyebrows as if to say what are you looking at? and then she turned and walked back to her room.

That was around the time I stopped sleeping.

Things get a bit hazy after that.

I kept going to classes for a while, but I got really strung out from lying awake all night.

Zach sent a few texts, like, ‘I’m really horny,’ and ‘R u still keen?’ but at some point I stopped charging my phone and just let it go flat. The hair dye smell was everywhere in the house, all the time. I could hardly breathe. It was weird though because Melissa never did actually dye her roots.

Come on, let’s put on the Pixies and drink chardonnay,’ she’d say. And we would, and eventually I’d pass out but then I’d bolt awake and she’d be there lying next to me, real close and looking at me while I slept. Her eyes big and dark, ammonia fumes spewing from her mouth.

They tell me it was April, mid-semester break, so a month after the date with Zach, when I finally charged my phone and went online. Scrolling through, I saw Zach was going out with Janie, skinny bitch. A photo of them both looking pretty wasted showed him grabbing her tit while her mouth leered, a red slash across her face rendered in pixels that I couldn’t stop staring at.

My message box was chockers with people asking where I was, but I thought it must have been a spam bot because I didn’t feel like that much time had passed. That was when I realised she was keeping me in the house somehow. Holding onto me. Melissa flickered into the room. I felt my insides go cold. Before she could get to me I typed in a quick status update and hit ‘share’. That feeling when you realise your housemate is a ghost. Then my phone went dead.

A few people freaked out apparently, cos I’d been AWOL for a few weeks and it must have seemed like a bit of a cracked up thing to say. Mum drove all the way down from Balaklava and found me in my pyjamas, starving and delirious, in a house full of old shit that was covered in dust.

Later on, after I moved out, I spent an afternoon in the musty book stacks in the Barr Smith Library with my laptop, digging through The Advertiser’s archive. Eventually I found it: an article with the headline, ‘Blonde Suicides by Poison in Inner Suburbs.’

Melissa Mahoney (19) was found last Saturday at her home in Parkside, deceased. Police are treating the death as a suicide. Detective Sergeant Robert Briggs told reporters that the young journalism student appeared to have consumed a large quantity of household bleach and the coroner’s report named poisoning as the cause of death.

It is not believed that the deceased left a note, but students at Adelaide University told reporters that Miss Mahoney had recently advertised for a housemate via a photocopied poster.

The Student Association held a candlelight vigil on Sunday and have started a petition to have the poster commemorated and for it to remain on the university notice board indefinitely.

Miss Mahoney is remembered by her mother, Amanda Mahoney (41) who resides in Massachusetts in the United States, and who is also the owner of the residence in Parkside. Mrs. Mahoney has no plans to return to Adelaide.

February 13, 1996.


Words by Emma Maguire

Art by Rhianna Carr

Processed with VSCO with t2 presetEmma Maguire researches digital life narratives by day. But by night she writes Australian Gothic murder stories set in South Australia’s hills, plains and streets.

Emma is co-founder of The Hearth Collective, a group of rad literary babes who host regular events in Adelaide to support emerging writers and artists. In addition to publishing work in several academic journals, she has also written for Kill Your Darlings, Feminartsy and Empire Times.