4.5 stars“If you can’t get a boy, get a book, that’s my motto.”(Believe me, the ‘meta’-ness of me using this quote is definitely not lost on me!)From the very opening lines, Tiff’s voice is clear and distinct, flowing beautifully on the pages as she relates the events of Bill Condon’s heart-warming novel. I loved her as a narrator: she’s astute, self-deprecating, funny. With simple, succinct turns of phrase, her story is poignant, full of heart and humour. Tiff’s observations were so familiar and relatable, and I found myself identifying with her so much, that reading this book was a slightly achy experience. Tiff has finished high school, and is about to start work experience at the local paper, which she hopes will lead to a cadetship as a journalist. She’s a book lover, a writer, and has spent her life in the tiny country town of Gungee with her patchwork family made up of surrogate grandfather and older brother figures, Reggie and Bull. Capable, strong, not really one for tears, Tiff is a deeply insightful character, treading the line between hope and doubt when it comes to her future, family and first love. Distinctly Australian in humour, style and dialogue, ‘A Straight Line to My Heart’ is heavy on the colloquialisms. In this way it reminded me a little of Markus Zusak’s ‘I Am The Messenger’ or Cath Crowley’s ‘Chasing Charlie Duskin’ – there is a similar flavour to the characterisation and the speech. I found I actually really enjoyed this – I could completely visualise the characters and their interactions and I laughed out loud on more than one occasion. (It probably helps having come from a small town myself. Tiff’s description of the available entertainment options in Gungee was classic). Reggie and Bull are brilliantly realised characters, typical Australian men, with clear affection for Tiff. The secondary characters were similarly authentic: Tiff’s new colleague ‘the Shark’, her best friend Kayla, Inky (oh my goodness – that nickname!), Bull’s girlfriend Zoe, Davey “Big Foot” Peters.. all of them bring a subtle texture to the story and context to Tiff’s world. A particular scene with Tiff and Kayla, where Tiff internalises her thoughts about the friendship, is just quietly heart breaking. It’s a good example of how Condon’s writing is quiet and spare, yet powerfully articulate. Spanning just one week, events both small and large unfold that will change Tiff’s life. You can feel the subtle shifts taking place under the words, all gently building towards something. While not exactly a frenzied-page-turning type of book, it’s the investment in the characters makes it so compelling and compulsively readable. The further I read the more I genuinely cared about the characters and what was happening to them. And the ending.. without giving anything away here: genius and beautiful. ‘A Straight Line to My Heart’ was a pleasure to read. It’s funny and sad, moving and unique. Perhaps it’s simply that the protagonist and her story really spoke to me; or Bill Condon’s way with words; or the genuine, developed characters – but I adored this book. I would recommend it anyone who enjoys well-written, contemporary Australian fiction. (And possibly humour in the style of ‘The Castle’ :D ...) Finally, some quotes:“Do you think I’m pretty?”“No, mate”, he said, “I wouldn’t call you pretty at all. No way. You’re beautiful.”It’s still near the top of my all-time favourite lies. _“I love Sylvia Plath, but I can only read her poetry in short bursts; stay too long in her world and the gloom seeps through by osmosis.”_“Yeah,” he says, nodding, “you are full-on weird.” But he says it with a smile.