I hit a bit of a reading slump recently and The Flywheel managed to pull me out of it. This book was incredibly charming and funny, grabbed me straight away with Delilah’s voice and had me engaged the whole way through. And of course, it’s always great to see queer (lesbian here) representation & Aussie YA!
Seventeen-year-old Delilah helps her dad run their cafe ‘The Flywheel’ whilst juggling school, keeping her eyes on her crush, Rosa, and trying to keep her friend Charlie out of trouble. But after her mother runs off with another man to Melbourne, her dad takes a well-deserved vacation, and Delilah insists he enjoys himself whilst she continues to run the cafe. Things start to go downhill, however, when the manager is unexpectedly deported, competition escalates, Charlie gets himself into a ridiculous mess (possibly facing prison), and other girls at school are giving her a hard time. How can Delilah deal with all of this whilst keeping The Flywheel afloat?
Delilah’s voice grabbed me right from the start — it had a charming humour to it and felt incredibly real. She was such a lovable character, with her fierceness and vulnerability fully fleshed out. This really made me root for her through all the challenges she faced, and worried for her when things went wrong! There were a number of lines which made me laugh out loud. Her crush on Rosa was sweet and very realistically depicted, and watching the things Delilah did to see more of/learn more about Rosa was both entertaining and heartfelt. I was with her every step of the way, feeling devastated when she faced obstacles, and really wanted the relationship to turn out the way Delilah had hoped.
Her best friend Charlie was also entertaining — he had his share of face-palm-inducing moments, but this was coupled with an enormous amount of hilarity. I really enjoy seeing healthy, supportive friendships like the one between Delilah and Charlie. Having said that, there are definitely conflicts in their relationship as Charlie gets himself into a sticky situation and Delilah lets him stay with her to hide and help out in the cafe — all of which were amusing and felt realistic. Although they didn’t play a huge role, I also liked Delilah’s other friends and the ways they were involved in the storyline.
Gough doesn’t hold back from depicting the overt homophobia and problematic attitudes that Delilah faces. I was so glad to see this addressed, and ached for Delilah throughout. As other reviewers have noted, this is not a coming out story and homophobia is not at the centre of the novel, but it’s included realistically, as an insightful reflection of (the awful) reality. I can definitely see how relating to this could help teens going through similar challenges.
Finally I loved how The Flywheel was never predictable. It had me continuously guessing about what would happen next, especially as the cafe’s, Charlie’s and Delilah’s situations continued to escalate. The storylines were generally wrapped up in a satisfactory manner at the end, and the characters were so real that I could easily continue to imagine more about them.
In summary, great voice and protagonist + humour + enjoyable and entertaining plot = GO READ The Flywheel NOW.
For those who have read it, I would highly recommend listening to the podcast Bookish Friends did on the book — I enjoyed hearing their thoughts.
Recommended for fans of: contemporary YA in general! 🙂