Do you think it was luck?
The Greenhill cricket team’s new kid, Dane Faulkner, is angry, Aboriginal, doesn’t wear a helmet, and cherishes an old bat dubbed ‘Concentrate’ due to the scrawled message on its spine. He’s also a phenom. Michael Duffy wants to figure out what makes the strange, gifted newcomer tick, but has his own problems – a blinkered father, an overprotective big sister, and impaired vision that is threatening his baggy green dream.
When a bigoted, bullying opponent is trumped using the Concentrate, a bond between the boys is forged and the source of the new kid’s freakish performances is revealed: a powerful, mystical presence within the willow itself. It is a presence Dane believes comes courtesy of his full-blood father, severely head-injured in a construction accident and rehabilitating in the family home. Michael – empathetic due to his own mother’s battle with leukaemia and the only other person ‘chosen’ to experience the Concentrate’s supernatural gift – is convinced of Dane’s claims during a late-night experiment at the local nets. Then the sporting miracle begins to give way to the medical variety and Michael understands that, in Dane Faulkner’s world, nothing is impossible.
But what about his own world?
Convinced of Destiny’s mean streak during a disastrous audition for higher honours, and having abandoned his promises of playing for Australia, Michael carries the dormant bat into his last ever innings – the district grand final. Is there life still remaining in the dream? Is there alchemy still to be witnessed?
Perhaps, if he can concentrate.
Concentrate is a story of courage, determination and hope undeniable. Combining the best elements of speculative and literary youth fiction, it contends that magic happens if you are prepared to believe.
Concentrate was shortlisted in the 2009 Text Prize for Young Adult and Children’s Writing. Buy it here.
The US edition, Focus and the Freak, is also available here.