Loner is the debut novel of Australian author Georgina Young, who won the 2019 Text Prize for this book.
The main character, Lona, is a twenty year-old art school drop out who works at a roller skating rink in a Melbourne suburb. She has a massive crush on a former schoolmate and is overly dependent on her best friend Tab. She has no plans for the future, blue hair, loves to read and actively avoids social interactions and activities which she considers to be pointless.
When Lona’s mother insisted that Lona either return to university or get another job and start paying board, Lona got a job at a supermarket then moved out of home into a share house, preferring to sleep in a curtained-off section of the loungeroom than pay board to her parents. Lona then began a relationship with a medical student but despite him understanding her need for solitude, they broke up, then Lona lost her job and moved home again.
The story of Lona’s grandfather’s loss of independence as the story continued contrasted with Lona becoming more independent.
Not much actually happens in this story but the characters are so good, particularly Lona, that Loner reminded me how it felt to be a young adult, sometimes full of confidence and other times not, not knowing what I wanted or was supposed to care about but thinking that I should know, and often worrying that other people would know that I was only pretending to be an adult.
While I enjoyed the contemporary Melbourne setting, reading about Lona’s work at Planet Skate filled me with joy. I was reminded of being a teenager in the 1980s and the glorious sensation of speeding past little kids and wobbly adults on my navy and white Hang Ten skates while eighties pop songs blared out and the disco lights flashed on and off.
The story is broken up into extremely short chapters which suited the characters and the story.
Loner is YA, but I would happily recommend this book to adult readers.