Twelve-year-old Joey’s discovery of a treehouse in his favorite wooded hideout has an unexpected outcome in this Australian import.
Joey feels practically invisible to his classmates and worries that his lack of athletic prowess disappoints his dad—he is most comfortable playing guitar alone “on the hill.” While his deepest wish is to be in a band, he feels too shy to make it happen. Joey, who presents white, has an encyclopedic knowledge of male historical figures, to whom he often compares himself: “Landing on the moon…on behalf of all mankind [is] deadly important and a million times more glorious and triumphant than being nice or sensitive.” Yet his outlook expands after meeting Marsh (his nickname for her since her treehouse resembles a Martian spaceship) and accepting their shared connection to “the hill.” Territorial resentment gives way to curiosity and empathy as he learns that Marsh built the treehouse to feel closer to her dead mother; that her Serbian parents moved here, to Australia, before her birth; and that her real name, Ruzica, makes her a target at school. Joey’s observations about Marsh and her father (first perceived as an unwashed drinker of beer) at times seem rooted in stereotypes, and his continuing use of a nickname that is based on that of a literal alien to refer to his friend sounds an off note. However, Joey and Marsh’s deepening friendship (and daring entry into the Battle of the Bands) rings true.
A quietly moving exploration of identity, friendship, and family that encourages facing one’s fears. (Fiction. 8-12)