29108821 Debra Tidball's review Feb 29, 16 · edit really liked it Read in February, 2016
From a YA novel called 'Bro' about a fight club and racial tensions with fists punching out the title on the cover, I was expecting ugly brutality: I was surprised with vulnerability and sensitivity. I thoroughly enjoyed Helen Chebatte's debut novel with its West Side Story feel, set in Western Sydney, with appealing and engaging main characters.
Using first person narration, Chebatte takes the reader behind the bravado of the main character, Lebanese Australian teenager Romeo, to expose his vulnerabilities. Set in a multicultural school Romeo is caught up in tensions that escalate after he starts dating a girl, and which end disastrously. With themes of identity, belonging, friendship, loyalty, peer pressure, racism, forgiveness and redemption 'Bro' certainly packs a punch!
Despite a lot of talk about fight club, there are actually only three fight scenes, each rendered effectively without too much gore and horror, however I was moved to tears at the outcome of the final fight, a testament to how engaged I was with the likeable characters.
The message of us all being Aussies despite our racial backgrounds is not so subtle, however in the shadow of the Cronulla riots, this is a message for our generation, and the refreshingly diverse voice in Aussie YA fiction is timely.
It is a pleasantly light read, dominated by dialogue and would be perfect as a middle school text.