When Matthew’s dad gets in trouble, he makes trouble for everyone else too. But with Dad in jail, Matthew and his mum have a chance to put their pieces back together.
Mum makes plans for a summer down the coast, fixing up Grandpa’s old place in an effort to make ends meet. The beach, the swirling rockpools and the vast ocean offer new perspective and promise and Matthew as he strikes up a friendship with Bill, an old local who recognises a fellow ‘Saltwater Boy’ – and shows him how to find pippis and catch fish, and even make a few dollars from it. Bill becomes the paternal figure that Dad isn’t – wise and patient – but Bill isn’t welcomed in town, and Matthew begins to witness old rivalries, and buried truths, resurface.
Then Dad gets out on parole and his recklessness puts everything, and everyone, at risk.
Heartfelt and poignant, this is a captivating coming-of-age story navigates the difficult terrain of fractured families, the lies that break, and the ties that bind.

Creators

Bradley Christmas is a full-time writer – and moonlighting musician – who splits his time between Sydney and his beloved beach shack on the NSW South Coast. While building his writing career he worked as a social worker, English language teacher and children’s entertainer. These days as a freelance copywriter he helps charities like Greenpeace, The Royal Flying Doctor Service and The Sydney Children’s Hospital Network share their stories. His short fiction has appeared in a number of magazines and publications including The Big Issue and received several award nominations. He can also regularly be found performing around Australia with his country band Copperline. Saltwater Boy is his first YA novel.

Reviews

I honestly can’t believe this is Bradley Christmas’s first novel. Although it’s not fast paced, I didn’t feel the need to skim, I was completely absorbed in the story. Matthew is such a gorgeous protagonist. We see him grow from a quiet, often thoughtless boy to someone with so much empathy, who stands up for what he believes in. I also love when each side character has their own arc, and Christmas delivers this perfectly. There are a lot of themes packed into Saltwater Boy: domestic violence, loss, grief, disability, bullying, Indigenous rights, racism, toxic masculinity and so much more. But by showing everything through Matthew’s perspective, Christmas never makes the reader feel overwhelmed. And although there are a lot of morals to find in the story, Christmas never talks down to the reader. Instead, he inspires you to get out into nature and also to preserve and respect the environment. This is a truly touching story about friendship, family, and protecting our environment. I can see this being studied in schools. Perfect for ages 10+.

Readings

This is a terrific novel filled with great characters. With themes of doing the right thing, families growing and changing, friendships in many forms, holding grudges and learning to move on, as well as learning about Country and First Nations’ traditions, this is an ideal novel for those aged 13 to 16 years

Lamont Books

This was such a well-written Australian novel that includes story-sharing and father-son relationships. There was an amazing story-arc and I couldn’t put this down

Kaitlyn’s Library

Bradley Christmas pens a poignant and engaging story, gripping from the word go, with relatable themes of loss, family blues, crisis of identity, and finding one’s place in the world. The prose is searing and raw while still emotive with truth in every word, and every piece of subtext, as well. The characters are well-drawn, verging on real people – and Christmas has finely tuned his dialogue to be astoundingly realistic. The pulsating tension builds and rises consistently through the story, and we the reader are throttled back and forth, round and round, along with Matthew, as we go on the journey of his story. His fraught relationship with his father is a true rollercoaster of tension yet offset nicely by the tender mentorship the boy experiences with Old Bill, who is a calming leading presence in the story. While there are references to domestic violence, it is handled with care, and doesn’t overwhelm the narrative. All in all, it’s a fine debut, and clearly evident of a bright future for Bradley Christmas. I can’t wait for the next one. Perfect for teen readers. Highly recommended.

Reading Time

It has a gentleness, even amidst hostility, and a redemptive and forgiving tone that takes it away from the horrors of family violence and dysfunction.

Lamont Books

Awards

The Australian Book Industry Awards - Matt Richell Award for New Writer of the Year
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