'Uteless' is a coming of age story that follows Bran Kelleher and his friends from the age of 14 to 18. The story begins in New Zealand where Bran is a pupil at a famous boarding school with a reputation for producing top athletes. He's on course to become a junior All Black rugby player and even has his own ute (utility vehicle), a gift from his car-dealer father.
When his mother falls ill and has to return to England, Bran's circumstances change dramatically. He finds himself living on his wits in another country. It doesn't help that he's assigned a place on the school bus in a row of seats called 'rehab' with three other so-called 'losers'. They include David, an obese and apparently lazy boy whose claim to fame is having 21 half-siblings thanks to his absent, loose-living, criminal father. There is Yasmin, of Iranian descent, immensely shy but formidably bright. Also a member of a single-parent household is Bel (Belinda), a budding poet, who offers occasional commentary in verse.
The teachers at Bran's new state school are divided about Bran's character and abilities. Some jump to conclusions and constantly mark him for behaviour, not achievement. Others see a boy with potential struggling with a family background that is only gradually being revealed to him.
The big question for Bran is how to navigate his way through the rest of his schooling. Will the values and work ethic he learned in New Zealand see him through relative poverty and social discrimination? Can he hold on to his earlier dreams of sporting prowess? Will the kids in 'rehab' be more of a hindrance than a help? What effect will this boy from a different culture have on their lives? Will he survive the family secrets that slowly emerge and re-shape his identity?