Breath, By Tim Winton

Australian "cowboy" paramedic, Bruce Pike looks back to the teenage trauma and triumph that set the course of his ill-starred life. From cover to critics, Breath has been sold as a surfing novel.

Yes, Winton's way with a breaking wave shows off all the springy dash of of his action-laden prose. Yet, much as "Pikelet" from a deadbeat sawmill town adores the sea, what lends Breath its buzz is the kid's rite-of-passage rendezvous with love and sex.

It arrives in the shape of Eva – whose murky depths and stormy crests far surpass the ocean swell. Smelling of "shampoo and fried onions", this heroine offers thrills, and risks, no mere board can match.