Jimmy started making a mix tape for Mona for her 15th birthday, a blend of the pretty boy pop she liked and his edgier preferences. The song titles of that slice of the 80s head the short chapters of this arty debut novel that jump Mona back and forward in time from the starstruck girl she was to the woman she has become.
There’s a Spotify list if you want to listen along as you read. But I didn’t need to. The musical cues dragged up my own memories of myself as a girl in the 80s, older than Mona but no wiser.
Melbourne was a more distant dream for me than for Mona in Castlemaine, a satellite country town; my own adolescent longings no less embarassing and sometimes painful to look back on with mature eyes.
Unlike Beñat/Benny I never entered the orbit of Nick Cave back when he was the shambling king of the Crystal Ballroom. The girls in the front watch the band like they’re in line for a beheading, waiting for Nick to be monstrous, to hurt them. But I had a Nick Cave wannabe boyfriend who was in a band and I basked in the reflected cool, while it lasted.
Mona takes Polaroids, every day. She taps into her sadness to feed her work, and remembers the photographs that Dodge took, her maternal protectiveness reaching out to her own youthful self.
Decades on, the carefully policed boundaries of cool are blurred as she watches Benny in an 80s tribute show, a parade of ageing front men backed by a band a generation younger, stoking the lustful nostaligia of outer suburban middle aged women.
She knows every word, even of the songs she hated back then. And as her teenage crush takes the stage … A flare of desire. For herself at that age as much as him.