A YA Guide to Melbourne – Part One: Six Impossible Things by Fiona Wood

 photo melbourne_ya_zps50cec2ab.jpg

I make no secret of the fact that I think the following things are pretty rad:

(1) Melbourne
(2) Young adult fiction

Therefore, it probably goes without saying that I love reading YA set in Melbourne.. but I’ll say it anyway. I love it.

For a while now I’ve been kicking around ideas as to how best to share the Melbs YA love. And I thought that since some of you can’t come to Melbourne, I would bring Melbourne to you – via YA.

I’ve decided to take a book by book approach because, while some of them inevitably share settings, I tend to think about these places in the context of the individual stories and their characters.

Kicking things off: Six Impossible Things by Fiona Wood. (If you haven’t read it yet, please do. It really is a gorgeous book. In the meantime, check out Maggie’s hilarious review over at YA Anonymous, or Flannery’s at The Readventurer.)

Welcome to Dan Cereill’s world.

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(At one point in the book Dan runs from Fitzroy, through the city to the Botanical Gardens, around The Tan, then back to Fitzroy. That’s roughly 10 kilometres, or just over 6 miles.)

 photo fitzroy_label_zpse1208493.png  photo Fitzroy1_zps63d7744d.jpg  photo Fitzroy2_zpsbd0a5573.jpg  photo Fitzroy4_zps7be17c1d.jpg [From top to bottom: 'Welcome to Sunny Fitzroy' mural by the Everfresh crew on the wall of the Night Cat, Young Street (the mural is actually black and white, but cross-processing my film turned it blue); 'Never Enough' by Rone and Wonderlust just off Gertrude Street; Grace Cafe wall, Rose Street.]

Okay, I’m actually taking a punt on the primary setting of Six Impossible Things being Fitzroy, based on mentions of Edinburgh Gardens and Gertrude Street, though I’m not sure it’s stated directly.

Fitzroy is allegedly the oldest suburb of Melbourne, and lies just north-east of Melbourne’s CBD. It covers a tiny area, but what it lacks in size, it makes up for in character. This is Melbourne’s bohemian heart; a vibrant pastiche of cultures, art, music and activism. That said, like most of Melbourne’s inner suburbs, it has undergone significant gentrification in recent decades, diverging somewhat from its working class origins. The socio-economic variance is more notable now – public housing estates, hip converted warehouses and historical terraces standing side by side.

 photo Fitzroy5_zps6c2c4e89.jpg  photo Fitzroy7_zps7e6b3a15.jpg  photo Fitzroy6_zpse0ac7629.jpg[From top to bottom: Brunswick Street; mural near Lost & Found Market, Collingwood; 'Unstoppable' by Rone, Rose Street.]

Fitzroy is flooded with street art. From small paste-ups and stencils to huge murals covering building-sides, the walls here are loud with the voices of some of Melbourne’s most prolific artists. Given the temporary nature of most street art, the suburbs streets and laneways become an ever-changing canvas: murals tagged over, paint disappearing under new layers, weathered paper peeling away from brickwork. While not exactly fleeting, they do give the area a feeling of constant evolution – there’s always something new to find, something different around the corner.

If you’ve ever seen a TV show or movie filmed in Melbourne, chances are you’ve caught a glimpse of Brunswick Street, Fitzroy’s major north-south arterial. The 112 tram shares the road with motorists, cyclists (and pedestrians, unofficially), meaning it’s in a near constant state of congestion bustle. You want something, you’ll probably find it here. Alternative boutiques. Rare records. Rave pants. Incredible vegetarian/vegan cuisine. Jewellery made out of Scrabble letters. A tattoo. A set of ancient dumbbells.. :)

 photo Fitzroy11_zps5e0d6f3a.png  photo Fitzroy13_zps9dc574ab.png photo Fitzroy12_zps721a27f3.png[Sights around Brunswick Street, Fitzroy.]

I couldn’t find a building that looked quite like the house Dan and his mum move into, but there are plenty of examples of original architecture from the mid 1800s. (Melbourne is a young city).

Tucked in alongside the terraces and cottages are narrow lanes and hidden cafes, studios in sheds that are sweet with the smell of spray paint. A flamboyant building on Gertrude Street is painted in lilac and leopard print, another tucked down a side street is bright yellow and adorned with an enormous prancing zebra. Footpaths outside pubs are cramped with tiny furniture and knots of people holding schooners. Live music pours out of windows and buskers hug the corners. Dusty op-shops stand shoulder to shoulder with espresso dens and community legal services. An elongated human figure with a deer skull for a head reclines along a brick wall, gazing up at a cluster of shoes strung over power lines, hanging idly over the street.

 photo Fitzroy9_zpscccc520f.jpg photo Fitzroy10_zps2e2e969a.jpg photo Fitzroy8_zpseb601435.jpgFrom top to Bottom: Art at Juddy Roller, Fitzroy (yes, that’s a trampoline in the cafe courtyard); backstreets of Fitzroy; Smith Street, Fitzroy/Collingwood

 photo botanical_label_zpse0efd376.png photo Botanical1_zps98267386.png[Royal Botanical Gardens and the Tan.]

The Royal Botanical Gardens lie on the opposite side of the Yarra River, just south of the CBD. Notable not only as part of Dan’s running route, this is also the scene of the school excursion “cactus incident”. (You’ll have to read it to find out what happens.)

Unfortunately, most of my photos were over-exposed (the middle of the day probably wasn’t the smartest time for taking photos) so I don’t have a good shot of the skyline, which is clearly visible from the higher points of the Gardens.

The Tan Track, or just “the Tan” as it’s more commonly known, traces the perimeter of the gardens. Though frequented by people of all levels of experience, I tend to stay away from it because serious runners (who flock there in substantial numbers) terrify me. (Note: I am not a serious runner. I am a ridiculous runner. I definitely could not keep up with Dan. People actually lap me around the Tan and it’s embarrassing.)

This is just a small glimpse into the world of Six Impossible Things.

“There’s this sky I like”…and it’s above Melbourne.

[Images by Reynje, taken with Canon FTb and Lomography Diana Mini, using Kodak Elitechrome (cross-processed) and Fujichrome T64 (cross-processed) film.]

Melbourne skyline image from photoeverywhere.co.uk

26 thoughts on “A YA Guide to Melbourne – Part One: Six Impossible Things by Fiona Wood

  1. O.O < This is actually my face right now.

    I LOVE THIS POST. Melbourne is so cool, I doubt it would let a loserthing like me me in but I'm going to try my hardest if/when I get to Australia.

    Seriously Rey, this is so fascinating and, of course, your pictures are absolutely astonishing.

    I've not read Six Impossible Things, something that needs to change pronto.

    • Well, they let me in, so you’ll have no trouble! ;)

      I’m glad you liked it! It was seriously hard to decide on what photos to use – Fitzroy is so photogenic, I took rolls and rolls of shots..

    • Thank you! I had a lot of fun putting it together, and I’m already planning the next post. Brunswick Street is cool. Every time I go there I find something new..

  2. This is such a good idea and such a cool post. As a person who has been living in Melbourne for just over three years I love seeing stuff on it. I also want to read more books set in Melbourne, so I am looking forward to more of these! :)

    • Thanks Mel! I’ve only been in Melbourne about five years, so I’m really enjoying getting out and exploring new places. Glad you liked the post!

  3. Whoa! It’s so cool to be able to actually see all of these places. This is such a great idea, Reynje. I can’t wait to read more of these. Suddenly I wonder if there are any YA novels based in Washington D.C. There must be!

    • Thanks Catie! I’ve been toying with the idea for a while but I’ve finally got around to doing it. I had so much fun putting it together – though taking photographs in the middle of a heatwave was one of my less brilliant ideas…

  4. omg, what a gorgeous post.
    I love love love books that are set here in Melbourne. It feels so nice to read something and instantly recognise the setting.
    I look forward to other posts in this series. Any books that I haven’t read yet will fly to the top of my TBR list! :)

    • Thanks Jess – I feel the same way, love spotting familiar places in books I read! It helps that Melbourne is so photogenic too..

  5. So when are you coming to do Seattle? ;-) But seriously, I LOVE this. Six Impossible Things was such a great book for me and it makes me unbelievably happy to see what some of the locations might look like. Also, I make no secret of the fact that I love your photography. It’s a win win win all around here. I look forward to seeing more of these posts.

    • Just as soon as I pony up the cash for the flight! ;) Will you be my tour guide?

      I’m so glad you loved it! The good thing about Melbourne is that it’s hard to take a bad photo. It might not be as pretty as Sydney but it has loads of personality, which makes it fun to shoot..

  6. Oh wow I love this post!! And now I want to move to Melbourne. I’m trying to think of YA books in Orlando and all I can come up with is Paper Towns by John Green. Abandoned tourist traps aren’t quite as scenic though haha. I can’t wait to see more of these! LOVE your photography :D

    • Thank you so much, Noelle! Really glad you enjoyed it. It’s hard to cram everything into a blog post, so if you ever come to Australia, I’ll give you a proper tour :)

  7. Pingback: settings « Fiona Wood | Australian Author

  8. LOVE THIS POST! Rey, you have some amazing pictures here. I think it’s awesome that you chose to start with a book that I’ve enjoyed reading. I think you already know that I’m a fan of your lomo shots. Also, I think the places are beautiful, we don’t get graffiti like that back home in Manila. I wish we did. This post is making me want to shoot some lomo again but all my cameras are back home and I don’t have any rolls of film. I’m not sure where to get film here in Singapore and where I could have the rolls cross-processed.

    Keep up with this great new feature for your blog. Looking forward to seeing more posts. :)

    • Thanks Chachic :) I’m definitely enjoying combining two of my favourite things: books and photography. I’m trying to teach myself more about manual photography, but I have a lot to learn..

      I’d love to see more photos from Manila and Singapore though :)

    • Thank you so much, Steph! I did take these photos, they’re the result of some recent experiments in film photography, which has been a lot of fun (and a lot of trial and error!) You should definitely visit Melbourne some time. Loving your recent travel photos too, by the way :)

  9. I am now picturing you running around the Tan like Phoebe Buffay. :) If I ever make it to Melbourne, we’ll take on the serious runners Phoebe Buffay styles, yes? These pictures are stunning. I’m having major I-want-to-go-to-there envy. I can’t wait to see what else you have in store for your guides to Melbourne.

    And fine, since no one else in the class asked, what’s CBD? I don’t have a PHD, Rey!

    • YES! EXACTLY :D And if you ever come to Melbourne, I am totally up for that Phoebe Buffay run!

      Ah, CBD is Central Business District – I just mean the centre of Melbourne, the main part of the city. And definitely more to come, I just need to get out there with my camera again..

  10. (Omogosh)(this)(is)(like)(so)(totally)(amrazing)!

    What an awesome review / travel guide – can’t wait for more.

    In the mean time does anyone have any other Y.A. recommendations?Stuff that isn’t depressing in the end – ala John Green…

    Anyway keep it up, awesome pics, and I’m now inspired to post
    my own pics of of our wonderful
    city!!!

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