Nick Earl's novel 48 Shades of Brown is a story about a boy, his feelings, thoughts and emotional struggle through his final year of school on what might as well be another planet. Dealing with this insecure sixteen-year-old boy's hopeless struggle through adolescence, the book tries to explore some of the pressing issues plaguing the minds of today's youth. Identity, sexuality and gender are just two issues covered by Earl's in his attempt to explore the feelings of Dan, a vulnerable and naive, adolescent boy thrown carelessly in to the world of his twenty two year old Aunt Jacq; a witty and intelligent lesbian house sharing with Naomi, a clueless blonde who has men, women and Dan going head over heals.
Dan is almost seventeen and is about to embark on the journey of stress, uncertainty, and emotional confusion that is his final year of school. His parents moved to Geneva for work and after spending Christmas with them, he returns to Brisbane to stay with his aunt Jacq for a year. Here, Dan spends the year vying for the affections of Naomi, a "flaxen haired goddess" who house shares with Jacq. However, things become even more complex for Dan when shortly after a uni party he discovers that he is not the only one who has feelings for Naomi; Jacq is in love with her too. The novel continues to explore the relationship between each of the three characters in the love triangle and Dan's futile attempts to win Naomi over from the insensitive jerks she falls for.
Through out the novel it is obvious that Dan is struggling to find a sense of self-identity. In the beginning he is portrayed as a loser; a shy guy with a huge lack of experience when it comes to the opposite sex. Dan attempts to turn himself into a sensitive, "Basil growing" guy who does folk art and "wears small steel framed glasses and natural fibres" in order to win Naomi over. Yet his efforts are all in vain as she frustratingly falls for insensitive jerks over and over.