Don't Smile Till Easter
by Adrian Stadtmiller, BA Dip Ed
Staddie Media/Publicious Book Publishing

"Delia, the Drama teacher at my school, tells me that I’m anti-establishment and a guerilla warfare fighter against the educational system."

A novel based in Australia, the book focuses on 14-year-old Lukas, his grandfather Tom, his mother Gail, and his teacher and mentor Mr. Donaldson (Donny). Along the way, other players are introduced including the Old Bloke Next Door—a creepy religious zealot, Bob, the father of Jenny, who is raising his daughter alone after his wife died of cancer, and Jenny, an older girl who Lukas likes but who is shown to have some significant issues of her own. Other characters include Terry (a fellow student who is obsessed with sex), the inept Principal Dr. Martin Grey, and various other teachers and school personnel.

Lukas is the typical acting-out child in school (there always has to be at least one) whose father abused his mother and eventually hung himself. The story takes us through Lukas' school year and explores his behavior and coping (or not coping) with the suicide. Being intelligent, he doesn’t miss much regarding people who attempt to thwart him, and he always knows what buttons to push to anger them. He is even more of a problem with teachers and the incompetent, lazy principal because of his intelligence, creativity, and the support of his family who always has his back, even when knowing there are problems in his behavior. The paths each character takes are examined in detail. As we engage in Lukas’ story, we wonder: does Lukas continue developing into a little sociopath or does he find a different path in life? How does Donny play a part in Lukas’ life? Is he a friend or foe?

While the book is a coming-of-age story set in Australia, it is still pertinent for all as this is a universal story of growing up, complete with dysfunction and the fun within and without it. The characters are written in a manner where each of them tells their own personal stories which also include gossip about others. This adds a valuable voice to the book as we learn about everyone’s thoughts, beliefs, feelings, and actions. The in-depth writing about both adolescents and adults, including those involved in the school, is done with the accuracy of someone who is well-acquainted with school life.

Misbehaving and misadventures, grief and loss, lies and misdirection, physical and sexual abuse, lust and love, trauma and survival, partying, and all other aspects of growing up are written beautifully by this master storyteller. As readers, we have all experienced our own growing-up sagas, so it is easy to relate to this timely story whether as an adolescent or as an adult. We have all tiptoed through the landmines of life and will be reminded of them throughout this work, for the story involves both beginnings and endings as well as what takes place in-between with a heartfelt tribute to all the characters—whether you end up loving or hating them. You will be surprised along the way, including what happens in the end with Lukas, Jenny, and Donny. This story is a tribute to those who struggle with their own lives, those who mature, those who don’t, and those who are heroes. You may find yourself laughing out loud or crying, but you will always be engaged in this reading.

RECOMMENDED by the US Review

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