48 Shades of Brown is a novel written by Nick Earls. It is officially listed as young adult fiction but its suitability for a younger audience makes it no less funny or appealing to those who can legally drink or drive.

Provided you've ever been sixteen you'll relate to the lead protagonist, Dan, who in his final year of high school has elected to stay with his incredibly hip and funky 22 year old muso Aunt Jacq -- and her friend Naomi -- rather than take a trip to Geneva with his parents.

Moving out of home and having to adapt to the adult world while studying for his final exams would be hard enough, but then he falls for Naomi and things start to get... confusing.

If you're a Nick Earls fan (which I am), this one is not to be missed. The first person narration includes a hilarious and entirely convincing internal monologue throughout, that perfectly captures the feeling of insecurity and awkwardness that describes my adolescent years to a tee.

The title is a reference to Dan who fears he will have nothing to talk about should he have the opportunity to speak to Naomi. So, he starts to memorise obscure facts to impressive her and she considers him more interesting. This leads him to ornithology, where he learns there are 48 different shades of brown used to describe ducks.

The book has recently been adapted into a successful stage play by Philip Dean.

48 Shades was first published in 1999 by Penguin Books in Australia.

For the record, the 48 shades of brown are:

Mahogony, deep brown, buffy, dark brown, rufous, dull brown, chestnut, dusky, golden buff, reddish brown, tawny, rusty, bright rufous, dull rufous, rich chestnut, fawn, grey-brown, warm redish-buff, brownish, rich buff, warm rufous, non-descript grey brown, neutral grey brown, yellowish buff, sandy brown, dingy brown, pale brown, khaki, brownish grey, olive brown, bright chestnut, pastel brown, warm brown, dingy yellowish-buff, rich rufous, dull olive-brown, rich red-brown, sooty brown, mousey grey-brown, dusky brown, dingy buff, sandy brown, warm sandy-brown, dark sooty-brown, warm golden-buff, sandy rufous, dark dusky-brown, and brown.

Why is Phil coping with this party better than I am? Is it because of the shirt he's wearing? Plain black with the words 'Last man in the world' printed on it. How can Phil not care so much about being so odd and out of place? I've tried to do better. Tried to be more than a Naomi-focused loser. I've noticed one or two girls I'd quite like to talk to, but how do you start? You can't just walk up and launch into it. I think all my plans involved finding myself face to face with someone who was expecting conversation. Someone who would kick things off, lead me to an opportunity to create the right impression, use my best stuff: the browns, species names, Fr√łken Smilla's fornemmelse for sne, if it isn't too Danish for a girl. And then she steps up behind me and I feel something in my hair.

A girl! She looks about my height. She smells like a forty year old wino who has never encountered a shower. And yet the picturesque appearance of her broad smile along with her dark brown hair makes her seem, at least, slightly attractive.

Sorry, she uttered, while pulling a clump of my hair out, in which it seems her Chupa Chup has become entangled, she gives up and lets it hang there.

Um, hello?

Hi, I'm Imogen, she glares at the Chupa Chup still stuck in my hair as though it might jump out and eat her.

Eh... Dan. So how about this party? I attempt conversation once more, hoping it will turn out well, I suppose I preempt the failure but nevertheless do my best to make this interesting.

Oh alright. She looks away from my hair and decides to stare at the floor instead. You know, the whole hair thing wasn't really an accident, I... She's cut off by Phil reentering, hurriedly whispering something about a bomb into my ear. I think how this could ruin whatever chances I have with Imogen before my attention returns to Phil. Empty verbiage is all I hear, none making any sense until I see the green smoke flowing in from the kitchen. It smells worse than Imogen did when I first saw her - a smell which I seem to have adjusted to now - but from the kitchen, this gas or smoke or whatever it is.. The odor is almost intoxicating and reminds me of a movie I once saw.. 'Requiem For A Dream'... The smoke gives the living room a level of surreality I haven't felt before.
Everyone in the house ran en masse towards the exits in a discombobulated frenzy. Imogen took my hand and launched out the back door, running past the fig tree. Too close and pulling me into it. As I fall, the right side of my head throbbing, she lets my hand go and sits down next to me. After a couple of seconds she realizes I hadn't meant to 'lay' down and comforts me.

You really are quite drunk aren't you? I state the obvious with only one thing on my mind, the impending defenestration I'd later use to get revenge on her for causing this pain... Although it won't actually happen I feel slightly better and amused at the thought.

I'm so sorry, it was an accident I swear... She trails off into an apology and I wonder how many shades of brown different lynx spiders have.

It's alright I'm fine. I lie, thinking how bad she must feel, and the slight isolation I feel. Now I have absolutely no idea where anyone is. I look over at her, very confused tonight, and it seems she has passed out.

I lay back and stare at the stars for what seems like it must be hours. I haven't heard anything from the direction of the house since we left it, nor anything of Imogen since I lay down. I turn towards her and notice a strand of clumped hair hanging over her mouth, I stroke her cheek under the pretense of moving her hair away.
Without thinking I lean in to kiss her on the lips. Maybe the knock to my head removed some inhibitions.. She holds her breath, or at least she seems to. My lips touch hers and at first I taste the sweet strawberry flavoured residue left by her Chupa Chup, and what seems to be blackberry lip-gloss. I might not have kissed a girl before but I'd know that flavour anywhere, mum used to always hand me a glass of blackberry juice with breakfast.
But over that and the moist sensation of my lips on hers, there's another fragrance. A bitter scent to begin with, then it grows stronger until I feel like throwing up. That's it! I can smell and partially taste her vomit! I had seen a show on TV where a girl was drunk and hit her head on a pole, rendering her unconscious, the girl had died, suffocated, on her own spew. I pull my head away from hers and open her mouth a little with my hands, I feel ill at the sight.

By the time the ambulance arrives I've thrown up as well, and I only feel worse with each passing comment. Jacq stands beside me telling me it will all be fine. I don't believe her, and my suspicions are confirmed when one of the five paramedics that arrived tells me she suffocated to death on her own vomit. I decide never to tell anyone that I kissed her.

A short story beginning half way through the book 48 Shades of Brown by Nick Earls, I found it in a pile of stories I wrote for my English class a few years ago and thought I'd add it here.

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