The Nature of Ash by Mandy Hager, Random House NZ
This excellent author has followed up her successful futuristic trilogy with an exciting, fast-moving thriller for teens, also set in a future New Zealand. But the timeframe of this novel isn’t as distant as the one in the trilogy – it’s a New Zealand very recognisable to our current generations, with a few nasty political developments thrown in. Ashley’s life turns to chaos when his father (a trade unionist) is killed by a bomb. He has to take responsibility for his younger brother Mikey, who has Downs Syndrome, and also for his grandmother who has dementia and lives in a rest-home. To add to his confusion, he discovers that his long-lost mother is still alive, but caught up in a terrorist group called Muru. Ash sets off to locate and confront his mother at the Muru secret hideaway, along with Mikey and two other teen friends. Their expedition ends in disaster and they only just escape with their lives. Further developments reveal that Ash and his friends are being used as pawns in a game controlled by much more powerful players. The plot races on relentlessly, the characters are believable, and the New Zealand of a few decades from now is chillingly credible. I couldn’t put the book down. Recommended for teens, especially boys.ISBN 978 1 86979 903 8 RRP $19.99 Pb
Red Rocks by Rachael King, Random House New ZealandHaving lived in Wellington, I am familiar with the coastline where Rachael set this story, and must congratulate her for using the landscape so well to create the wild and slightly threatening atmosphere. I also admired her initiative in creating a New Zealand version of the old selkie legend. The story is interesting and mysterious – and extremely well-written. Jake enjoys wandering the wind-swept beaches and rocks, but his life changes dramatically when he discovers a sealskin hidden in a rocky cleft and takes it home. He subsequently encounters several strange characters – an old man who lives in a hut on the beach, a beautiful and forlorn woman who wanders the roads, and a fey girl called Jessie who is obviously a selkie. Jake’s father meets the woman, brings her home and falls under her spell - literally. Jake realises that things are spinning out of control – if he doesn’t act quickly, dire events will happen. Because of its magical overtones, I suspect the story will appeal more to intermediate-aged girls than to boys – but you never know... Oh yes, congratulations to the publishers for producing such an eye-catching cover.
Teacher notes here and read an extract here
ISBN 978 1 86979 914 4 RRP $19.99 PbReviewed by Lorraine Orman