Bro by Helen Chebatte
Published Feb 1, 2016 by Hardie Grant Egmont
Source: the publisher
Rating: 4 stars
From the blurb: Romeo knows the rules.Stick with your own kind. Don’t dob on your mates, or your enemies. Respect the family.But even unwritten rules are made for breaking.
Bro is Helen Chebatte's debut novel. Set in Western Sydney, the story revolves around Romeo Makhlouf, a sixteen year old boy attending a Christian boys high school. He lives with his dad and grandmother. His mother died of cancer five years ago and since then his father's moods have been up and down, creating a tense relationship between them. When he's challenged by an Aussie boy at school, their fight sets off a train of events that leads to disaster.
The main focus of Bro is identity and what that means to different people, in this case teenage boys and their families. Romeo's father is Lebanese, his mother was Australian, and Romeo was born here. He struggles throughout the book to understand who he really is. His friendship group at school have pride in being Lebanese but he's often reminded of his mother's nationality and the fact that he was born here and takes part in Aussie ways of living as well as Lebanese. There's a strong emphasis on family and respect, and his best friend, Diz, is more like a brother than a mate.
Romeo describes the four main groups of boys at his school, including his group, the Lebanese, the Islanders, the Asians, and the Aussies. Each have their own areas and ways they interact with each other. They have unwritten codes of how they are to deal with issues, with fights, and how things should be done. It was easy to feel for Romeo who doesn't want to be pressured into fighting by his peer group, but feels like he has to conform.
The ending is sad yet hopeful, and the resolution between Romeo and his father was mirrored in his interactions with boys at school.
Bro is an excellent novel, highlighting issues schools are facing. It is a great read for high school students as well as teachers and parents.
Thank you to Hardie Grant Egmont for my review copy.