12 June, 2015

Into the river by Ted Dawe

Into the river is a gripping, emotional read by one of New Zealand’s most respected young adult fiction writers. Dawe’s first book, Thunder Road (2003), won the young adult fiction category at the 2004 New Zealand Post Book Awards for Children and Young Adults. Dawe described his style then as "plot driven stories that aim to give the young adult reader all the rewards that adult readers get from a well written book, with a concerted effort to avoid moralising and finger wagging".

Into the river, written as a prequel to Thunder Road, meets those same criteria and was judged Margaret Mahy Book of the Year at the 2013 New Zealand Post Children’s Book Awards.

The lead character is Te Arepa Santos, a teenage Māori boy from a rural community. When he is dragged into a local river by a giant eel, he comes into contact with the spirit world. Years later, far from home, there is a price to be paid, an utu exacted.

Te Arepa is smart but naïve, tough but vulnerable, and the depth and richness of Dawe’s narrative draws you into caring deeply about how his life unfolds. Riveting from beginning to end, constantly engaging and sometimes shocking, this book unflinchingly tackles themes including sexual relationships, drugs, violence and the struggle for cultural identity.

Although pitched as young adult fiction, like Thunder Road before it, the moving storyline and expertly developed characters of Into the river will ensure that this book is also much loved by adult readers. This is coming-of-age fiction at its very finest and helps fill the void of New Zealand literature focused on adolescent males.

The book has been restricted by the Office of Film and Literature Classification to persons aged 14 years and over.

Title: Into the river 
Author: Ted Dawe

Reviewed by Nick K, Ranui Library

Nick K enjoys reading crime fiction, demonological adult and young adult fiction, classic children’s fiction like Arthur Ransome and picture books, especially those illustrated by Quentin Blake. He hates reality TV.

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