Me and Mr Booker, Cory Taylor's first novel, has been described as a coming of age novel. Martha is sixteen and tells people she is emotionally scarred from her parents' marriage break-up. She considers her unemployed (and seemingly unemployable) father, Victor, mad, and in a frightening rather than an amusing way. Her mother, Jessica, a teacher, throws parties every weekend to ward off the boredom and loneliness of weekends, and her older brother Eddie is away in New Guinea. In this dysfunctional atmosphere, Martha finds herself waiting for something to happen in her life. As luck will have it, that something is Mr Booker: English, sophisticated, charming and impossible to resist, despite the fact that he comes complete with a wife. Very little is learned about Mr Booker (and never his first name) until the last chapter: the very last line of the book reveals much.
Taylor expertly captures the feel of the dull country town, the sense of boredom and even hopelessness. She lets us inside the mind of a sixteen-year-old girl, one who feels "old" because of her parents' attitude and the way men have started to look at her. Her affair with Mr Booker seems inevitable, and Taylor builds the tension throughout the book, giving the reader a sense of "this can't end well". This tension is regularly eased by the witty repartee between the characters. As well as this, Victor's delusions and his letters to Jessica, full of inappropriately grandiloquent language, are quite a source of humour. Some of his later letters are, unintentionally, truly hilarious.
Taylor gives us believable characters and authentic dialogue. As we join Martha's journey towards adulthood and maturity, it is hard not to hope she finds her way without too much heartbreak. The last page, a touching ending, has the reader wondering who really has the power over whom? Me and Mr Booker is funny, sexy, moving: altogether a great read. Let us hope Cory Taylor has more like this one to share with her readers.