Like the rare Kiwi or even rarer Kakapo (native New Zealand birds), young Viola is a truly unique creature living a nocturnal life exploring the New ZLike the rare Kiwi or even rarer Kakapo (native New Zealand birds), young Viola is a truly unique creature living a nocturnal life exploring the New Zealand bush. Born with unusual genetic condition Xeroderma Pigmentosum, XP for short, Viola is at risk from anything that emits ultra-violet light, including the sun. Burning, blistering, alterations to her DNA, cancer.
In danger from daylight, Viola is one of 'the moon children', and while her parents sleep she explores the family sheep farm and surrounding forest by night, sharing the natural world with the moreporks, possums, and other creatures prowling the darkness.
One night, she witnesses a vicious and violent crime, and sees the perpetrator bury a sack of money. With her parents in financial difficulties and in danger of losing their farm, Viola decides to take the money to help her family, drip-feeding it to them over time. While the Police are looking in the wrong direction, Viola finds herself in the criminal's crosshairs after a newspaper interview about her and her condition tips off the local drug dealer as to just who might have taken his money.
I think Night Vision would be a superb mystery thriller for adolescent readers (middle graders for those in the United States) but can also be enjoyed by older teenagers and adults. I certainly liked it a lot, even though it's quite a bit 'simpler' than the adult crime novels I usually read. The tale is smoothly written and West does a great job weaving in lots of interesting characters, themes, and setting in among the page-turning 'how will Ella outwit a dangerous criminal?' plotline.
Viola is the heart of Night Vision, a unique adolescent who's had to face many challenges and restrictions in her young life and has no chance to live the life of a 'normal kid', no matter how much she might want to. Her first person narration draws us into her world, her perspective, her life. Viola's a remarkable 14-year-old who still feels very real, mature for her age but still her age and not too adult or 'author in a teen body' (a flaw in some young adult books). She's engaging and interesting.
I also enjoyed the way West brought the New Zealand rural setting to life, life on the farm and in the forest. The nocturnal perspective on the local bush, the dual serenity and danger of nature, was well evoked and created an atmospheric backdrop to the tale. Night Vision has an eerie elegance to it, absorbing more than helter-skelter thrilling in tone, full of interesting characters and information that is adroitly parsed out in an engaging manner that doesn't disrupt the way the storyline unfolds.
From medical conditions to music, nature to questions of natural justice, Night Vision tickled my mind as I turned the pages, just as Viola tickled my heart. A good read from a talented storyteller.
Craig Sisterson is a New Zealander who writes for newspapers and magazines in several countries. He has interviewed 150 crime and thriller writers, discussed the genre at literary festivals and on national radio, and is the Judging Convenor of the Ngaio Marsh Award. You can follow him on Twitter: @craigsisterson ...more
Deservedly shortlisted for the LIANZA Young Adult Fiction Award, this gritty first instalment in Palmerston North teacher Benn’s planned trilogy folloDeservedly shortlisted for the LIANZA Young Adult Fiction Award, this gritty first instalment in Palmerston North teacher Benn’s planned trilogy follows a group of teens facing plenty of tough circumstances and troubling issues; bullying, gangs, drugs, and youth crime. Benn skillfully builds tension as he switches perspectives amongst several intriguing characters, although inline hockey player Rochelle, whose brother Jack is being dragged into his father’s gang, is the main ‘heroine’. Bluntly dealing with realities some Kiwi kids face; a very good read that will leave you on tenterhooks for book two...more
Harlan Coben's first foray into the young adult market, following 20 thrillers that have scooped awards, topped bestseller lists, and sold tens of milHarlan Coben's first foray into the young adult market, following 20 thrillers that have scooped awards, topped bestseller lists, and sold tens of millions of copies, is a very assured one. Coben not only introduces a new teenage hero who offers plenty of interest in this book and plenty of possibilities for an ongoing series, he also gives longtime readers a different perspective on his popular sports agent cum investigator Myron Bolitar,
Mickey Bolitar is faced with that crushing teenage situation: being the new kid at high school. He's come to live with his Uncle Myron after a series of family tragedies, and he's truculent, disgruntled, angry. Despite his uncle's best efforts, he doesn't want to talk about it, and doesn't want to be there. Fortunately some unlikely new friends at his new high school alleviate the pain for a while, providing light at the end of a dark tunnel. Along with his new girlfriend Ashley, there's goth-girl Emma and the quirky 'Spoon'. So when Ashley disappears, Mickey is understandably determined to find her - he can't lose another person he cares about from his life. But when Mickey discovers Ashley might have been lying to him all along, will uncovering the truth be an even bigger blow for this troubled teen?
One of the things I enjoyed most about this book is that - unlike John Grisham's THEODORE BOONE - I didn't feel Coben had dumbed his style down or oversimplified things for his target audience of younger readers. This is a book that adults can enjoy as much as teens, without feeling shortchanged. SHELTER may centre on a group of high school kids, but it contains plenty of the twist-filled storylines, intriguing cast of characters, wry humour, and thematic touches (old secrets, loss, redemption) that have made Coben’s adult novels so popular with readers and critics alike
There is some pretty dark and gritty stuff in SHELTER, as the world Mickey finds himself investigating is not one for kids, even if kids can get caught up in it. But Coben nicely balances this with regular doses of humour too, so the book felt pretty balanced to me. I appreciated that Coben didn't shy away from some tough topics, addressing a number of things in SHELTER.
It was also interesting to get a different perspective on Myron Bolitar - who is usually the relatively assured, competent, and cool hero of many Coben novels. Here, seen through the eyes of his disillusioned teenage nephew, he's an annoyance, a bumbling uncle who gets in the way, and isn't half as wonderful as most people in Myron's life think he is. The relationship between Mickey and Myron is quite a fascinating one, and once again Coben draws us in with an intriguing family dynamic and focus on very human characters alongside his page-turning mystery/thriller plotline.
Overall, I heartily enjoyed SHELTER, and would recommend it to any younger reader who would like a bit of high quality crime and thrills in their reading, rather than just dystopian worlds or vampire love stories. A good read for adult crime fans too. ...more