From the author of the award-winning The Dead I Know comes an urban 'bromance' with an unexpected twist, featuring a boy from the upper end of town who finds refuge and friendship pushing trolleys at the local supermarket and avoiding a troubling secret in his own past.
Scot Gardner became a writer after a chance meeting with a magazine editor while hitchhiking in eastern Australia. Magazine articles led to op-ed newspaper pieces and eventually novels. Scot's first fiction for young adults, One Dead Seagull, was published after he attended a writing camp with John Marsden.
More than a decade later, his many books have found local and international favour and garnered praise and awards for their honest take on adolescent life. They include books like White Ute Dreaming, Burning Eddy and most recently Happy as Larry, winner of a WA Premier's Book Award for young adult fiction, and The Dead I Know, winner of the CBCA Book of the Year Award for Older Readers.
Scot lives with his wife and some chickens in country Victoria.
Although we do not know where it will go, the opening lines of The Way We Roll set the context for the two main characters, Will and Julian. While the reality of their ‘place’ is questioned as the novel progresses, the reader learns quickly that Will and Julian come from different backgrounds and sides of town and have been brought together by circumstance.
The text explores issues of relationships, homelessness, family, prejudice and social justice. It particularly explores the developing relationship between Will and Julian as their trust and confidence in one another develops. Gardner’s insight into how this develops is a strength of his writing, encouraging his audience to reflect on their relationships.
A strength of the writing is that Gardner’s characters are both simple and complex. In addressing issues raised in the text, whether it be the interactions of the trolley boys or family, there is an authenticity as each of the characters works towards understanding themselves and of their betterment as they work through individual challenges.
For adolescent/young adult readers, the books keeps you engaged as you are taken into the everyday challenges of their lives and as you learn more about their backgrounds, the impact this has had on their outlook and actions as well as their goals. The writing explores significant enduring and contemporary challenges young people face through clearing stating situations that both Will and Julian face with honesty and integrity while tempered by humour.
My students loved The Dead of the Night to the point that this was one text that we regularly have to top up due to missing books. I have no doubt this will be taken up as avidly when we add it to our Literature Circles reading texts. While engaging for both genders, The Way We Roll offers male students the opportunity to explore relationships in a non-threatening and paradoxically simple but complex way.
Tami O’Hare, Western Heights College, VIC
Why choose old and dusty American lit when you have Australian voices like Scot Gardner? Gardner has encapsulated a world of doubt, friendship and betrayal in an easy to read style that will appeal to most teenagers. From the in your face chapter titles to the stark dichotomy of the two main characters he draws you into the story from the first page.
Will, a polite but reserved young man is paired with a confident brash lower class Julian. Their lives have been incredibly different from schooling to their home life and the social expectations that are attached to their class status. The novel opens with the two boys being paired for trolley duty. Julian’s curiosity quickly uncovers that Will is homeless which leads him to offer a place to stay. As full time trolley boys Julian introduces Will to a life that is unexpectedly rich with family and friends.
The themes of belonging and letting go of the past are underscored by those of trust and friendship which are concepts that are alien to Will. As the novel develops the reader finds out more about Will as he opens up to Julian and his family. It is due to Julian’s friendship that Will finds the courage to share his family secret and face the consequences of his decisions and actions.
The novel touches on multicultural issues, divorce, fame and girlfriends. The class divide is evident but the novel reflects the adage ‘money can’t buy happiness’ and that friendship between mates is important. Will learns life lessons and comes to understand that the future is his to choose. A suitable text for Year 10 or 11 English with strong character development and a long hard look at values, attitudes and beliefs of teenagers and parents. There is a modern setting and issues which will appeal to high school students; blended with a dash of betrayal and a good dose of humour.
Jo Corcoran, Teacher Librarian, Highfields State School, QLD
The Way We Roll by Scot Gardner, author of the award winning The Dead I Know, is a gripping, humorous and engaging tragicomic ‘bromance’. The novel is centred on William (Will) Rushton, an upper end of town boy with a hidden past who passively seeks refuge and friendship pushing trolleys at a local supermarket with rough and tough Westie boys.
The Way We Roll discloses the value of resilience, integrity, compassion, love, friendship, trust, honesty, solidarity, perseverance through enduring themes of family and mateship. More importantly, the novel delves into the significance of family and friends in shaping and defining our social and personal identity.
I highly recommend this text as a secondary high school teacher. It would be an appropriate novel to teach to either a Year 7 or 8 coed mixed ability class as it successfully targets the needs and interests of all teens particularly boys from the ages of 14 and above. It also effectively addresses Australian Curriculum requirements.
I intend to integrate this text into our Year 7/8 Reading Program. It would be most suitable for younger teenage boys who struggle to engage in wider reading practices. I highly recommend this text to other high school educators who are scoping out suitable texts either for younger adults or teen boys. Alternatively, it'd be an ideal text to add to your English book room collection.
Leotta Michelle, NSW
Scot Gardner's new novel, The Way We Roll is the story of two teenagers, Will and Julian who meet at work. They collect shopping trolleys in the carpark of a local supermarket. However, although Julian's larrikinism and occasional brushes with the law seem like the natural progression to a job requiring unskilled labour, Will's private school background and moneyed family make his presence in the supermarket car park a bit more of a mystery.
At the beginning of the novel, Will has nowhere to live but as the two become friends, they become housemates, whilst the reasons for Will's homelessness slowly emerge over the course of the rest of the book. The Way We Roll is really about Will coming to terms with the hand that life has dealt him, and the need to move on from the people he once loved and forgive them for the ways that they have let him down.
It is an easy read with a satisfying denouement, and some genuinely likeable characters. Some of the language and situations indicate that this is probably for older teenagers but it's a good recommendation for boys looking for something realistic and with a distinctly Australian flavour.
Anthony Catanzariti, English Head Teacher, Griffith High School, NSW
This book open slowly and we get to learn about the characters as we read. Nothing is disclosed at the start. The boys collect trolleys at a supermarket and we learn about the odd relationship between the quiet boy and his mate. Will has a secret, and it is like pulling teeth to find out about him. Julian doesn’t have secrets. The characters jump off the page in this book, and Julian’s family is particularly engaging.
As a teacher, this book is a great way to get reluctant readers engage. Chapters are short, and students will recognise the type of characters they interact with daily. Not only can the book be used to discuss the art of writing – drawing character with words; writing effective dialogue and description – but it can also act to start discussions about family life, and how people try to ‘fit in’.
This book has the loud, brash, noisy, opinionated boys, but also the quiet boys who move through the background while trying to deal with their own secrets and problems. How Will finally shares his secret is a strong piece of writing. All the characters in this novel are strongly drawn, which can be unusual in a young adult novel.
Despite being a short book, it deals with big issues like love, secrets, betrayal. Boys in my classes have loved this, and it conveys some wonderful messages. Perhaps, most importantly, it demonstrates the value of friendship, and sharing our feelings. Many adult men have difficulties with discussing feelings, so it’s great to see a book which encourages and celebrates this. It’s also hilarious!
Ceri Davies, Teacher, St Brendan-Shaw College, TAS
Scot Gardiner’s latest young adult novel, The Way We Roll, is an engaging story about seventeen year old private school boy, Will and his unlikely friendship with Julian, a rough diamond from the Western Suburbs. Told from the perspective of Will, The Way We Roll is a coming of age story. We follow Will as he escapes his former life in the well-to-do suburb of Garland for a hideout under the bowling alley and a job as a trolley boy.
Gardiner maintains the reader’s interest through suspense and a slow unraveling of what led Will to this unlikely position. As Will is exposed to whole new world through a cast of characters at work, he comes to a new understanding of himself. The novel explores themes of loss and family and explores the question of what is it like to live with grief and how we cope with feelings of powerlessness. Gardiner carefully weaves actions scenes with some more poetic, philosophical passages as Will comes to learn about the pain of love and betrayal.
The Way We Roll would be perfect for an English Studies class, or as a related text for the Standard English Module C elective, Exploring Transitions. While some of the language in the novel would prevent me from using it with a whole class in the junior school, I would definitely recommend it to students in Year 10 and above for independent reading. I thoroughly enjoyed this novel despite my initial hesitation of the portrait offered of Western suburbs life. I’m already planning some mini lessons for my year 9 class, looking at writer’s craft and Gardiner’s use of imagery.
Belinda Bower, Katoomba High School, NSW
Will and Julian are from different worlds – one is a former private school boy, who now sleeps under a bowling alley - the other, a juvenile delinquent with a big heart. These worlds collide when the boys meet pushing trolleys at the local shopping centre.
It soon becomes clear that Will is running from something – but from what we do not know. Is it the police, school, family? Unquestioningly, Julian offers Will refuge and friendship, introducing him to his remarkable family and convivial friends, and exposing him to a life quite different to the one he is used to.
As we follow the boys through their amusing exploits and carpark ‘adventures’, a savvy plot twist reveals Will’s secret. With the assistance of Julian and his other new found friends, Will faces his past, and learns valuable lessons about family, betrayal, relationships and acceptance.
This novel is suitable for older readers and with its themes of belonging and mateship, would be a perfect inclusion in a reading program directed at male students. The Way We Roll is a beautiful read about the importance of friendship - and demonstrates how solidarity can often be found in the most unusual and incongruous of places.
Nicole Burns, English teacher, St Paul’s Booragul, NSW
The Way We Roll is highly assessable novel for older teens that could be used in the classroom for year 10 and stage 6 students.
Its strength is its ability to capture the teenage voice and would be a good example of effective use of dialogue for characterisation in creative writing. It has a wide variety of suburban characters of various ages, genders, class and ethnic backgrounds but the novel centres on the development of two boys and their friendship making it appealing to reluctant male teenage readers.
The novel's accessibility is also due to the fact it deals with a range of themes that appeal to the modern teenager particularly sexual ethics and the using of technology to record sexual exploits along with drugs, homelessness, class warfare, belonging, family, friendship, relationships etc.
I loved the title and tag lines of the novel. The idea of quirky urban objects such as shopping trolleys, goats and phones coming together in the tale of a bromance was appealing to me. Sadly, the goat did not feature in a prominent way in relation to the storyline or the humour of the novel so I was a little disappointed.
Although a highly accessible novel for teenage boys I would not recommend it over other novels I have read these holidays. I have also read Ghost River by Tony Birch. Although a harder read it too addresses the growing friendship of two boys in an urban context and the complexities that can arise in this context such as sons’ relationships with their fathers, family relations influenced by drug taking particularly alcohol, belonging and class distinctions. Yet Tony Birch is able to address these issues without falling into class stereotypes and can anchor young people's concerns to larger issues such as their belonging found in their environment and their concern for the Indigenous story tellers who are part of their river. As a teacher I will be directing my stage 6 male reluctant readers to tackle extracts of Tony Birch's Ghost River before The Way We Roll.
Fiona Willis, Coonamble High School, NSW
Social change is the fabric of our beings: whether we press out the creases or appreciate its crumpled façade, things evolve around and within us. So this novel by Scot Gardener confronts fitting into society while being an outcast; living an acceptable life while struggling to find acceptance. I really enjoyed the journey it took me on. It is a novel that resounds with many of today’s teenagers. This is the third of his novels I have read. I have not been disappointed!
A number of my Grade 11 ‘non-reader’ students have read this book and they could relate. It is about being yourself, accepting others, being responsible, ‘standing up’ but more importantly about how people are judged. Throughout the novel I found myself on an emotional roller-coaster buffeted about by the reactions of the society I am a part of in the face of people I come across on a daily basis. The baggage people carry that we know nothing about underpins so many scenarios in society which could be handled differently. A growing epidemic in our community is hidden homelessness – it is called ‘couch-surfing’. Scot Gardner opens the door to talking about it with the people that matter.
Pithy and matter-of-fact, Gardner’s characters could be any of your kids in senior school. They invite you to listen to their story. They ask you to share their experience. They want you to understand. They are not asking you to fix it. Empathy is the key. This novel is a springboard into a social investigation and a journey of realisation; an opportunity to interview welfare organisations, talk to some of their clients, create short film documentaries and raise awareness. It is a seed from which anything imaginable will grow.
Michael Cruickshank, Hellyer College, TAS