Don't you hate those books that get to half way and then say "well, I suppose by now you've figured out that (fill in crucial, glaringly obvious gameDon't you hate those books that get to half way and then say "well, I suppose by now you've figured out that (fill in crucial, glaringly obvious game changer)..." except you're sitting there going, er... whoopsie did I miss something? In my defence, there are no pictures of chimps on the cover. ...more
One of those stealthy books where you know it's all going to go wrong (the clue is in the title) you're just not sure when, or how, or how bad it's goOne of those stealthy books where you know it's all going to go wrong (the clue is in the title) you're just not sure when, or how, or how bad it's going to be, and then when it does, it gets you the shins like a low table in the dark, leaving you to wonder, what the fuck just happened?...more
Kids were a bit lost at times, but in a nice way. It was pleasant to read and listen to, so much so we finished it in one sitting. I think the real puKids were a bit lost at times, but in a nice way. It was pleasant to read and listen to, so much so we finished it in one sitting. I think the real punch comes at the end (with a nod to the final scene in "the Usual Suspects") the kids were like, "wait... what?" and spent a lot of time poring over the pictures and going back to earlier bits to re-digest what we'd read - and laugh and say "aaaha!".
We downloaded the kindle edition which was pretty cool - videos showing how the illustrations were done, plus the whole book read by Neil himself. What a bonus. Wish more books came this way! Why not? So interactive and adds another new dimension to the pleasure of reading. Can't believe i"m saying that... could I actually be converted to the kindle?!! If it's encouraging my kids to read, perhaps I am?...more
Yep, thoroughly enjoyed it - as the title suggests, it's another retelling of the historical Jesus, only this time with a quirky twist - the son of goYep, thoroughly enjoyed it - as the title suggests, it's another retelling of the historical Jesus, only this time with a quirky twist - the son of god has an identical twin brother. Without stretching the gospel too much, Pullman's story is actually surprisingly believable; although that may have more to do with Pullman's mastery of language than anything else. But I don't think there's any suggestion his tale is based on fact anyway - although clearly well researched; more likely, it was a set-up to expose and challenge the most commonly held perceptions about the bible and the birth of the church.
I didn't realise til after I read it that it is one of the Canongate Myths books - a collection of short novels reimagined and rewritten by famous authors; Last year I read and also thoroughly enjoyed The Penelopiad by Margaret Atwood, which retells Odysseus' story from the perspective of his wife, Penelope. https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/1....
This is the story of Bugs, a smart, 16 year old girl from a small, tourist town in New Zealand who thinks she's got it all figured out.
And she does,This is the story of Bugs, a smart, 16 year old girl from a small, tourist town in New Zealand who thinks she's got it all figured out.
And she does, in many ways.
Her Mum works double shifts as a cleaner at a fancy hotel, a life she'd never had had if she hadn't got pregnant with Bugs. So Bugs knows about mistakes, because she is one. Bugs has school counsellors telling her that, as a Maori, she basically has to defy statistics in order to achieve in life. So she's knows about opportunities, because she has to make them for herself. Bugs' best friend, Jez, is routinely neglected by his mother and abused by his step-father, so she knows about hardship and disadvantage because her best mate doesn't stand a chance. The new girl in town is a prissy, melodramatic, spoilt, loudmouth, with no appreciation for the wealth that falls in her lap. So Bugs knows all about privilege and birthright, because she watches people like Stone Cold take it for granted every single day.
It is as though Bugs' life is just another dystopian novel, and she already knows the script inside out.
Or does she?
You could probably draw quite a few parallels between Hereaka's novel and Ted Dawe's "Into the River" which won the supreme NZ Post Book Award last year. Both are YA adult novels featuring Maori protagonists during their final years of education. Both are set predominantly at school, with teachers as key characters. Both involve vulnerable youth at a point of crisis or crossroads, and both speak to the persistence of racist attitudes that prevail within the education system in New Zealand. (Both books also feature the "C" word!!!) But where Into the River really fell down for me was in the authenticity of the voice. I just couldn't always believe that I was really inside the main character's head - how he would have thought, words he might really have spoken.
I didn't have that problem with Bugs.
From the very first line, she grabbed me and drew me in. Normally, precocious young narrators drive me insane, but Bugs' voice is authentic, her experiences and perception of the world utterly true. The connection between Bugs and Jez, a connection never fully realised, is so powerful it left a clanging in my ears. The depictions of the farm and the dialogue between Bugs, her Uncle and her Grandparents was so real I felt like I was in the room with them. The weight of expectation Bugs carries on her shoulders is so heavy I could have sworn I was carrying it too.
For the three days this book kept me engrossed I felt like I'd returned to high school; could almost feel the dread as I walked through the school gates, smell the lockers, hear the scrape of the chairs on the linoleum and the droning of disinterested teachers. It's gritty and unflinching and combative and sarcastic and deep. It's even scary. It rustled up the latent fear in me that I never realised I lived with during those high school years; the fear of getting caught, being found out, not knowing, being left behind, making the wrong choice.
As Bugs introduces us to her town, her school, her teachers, her mother and Grandparents, Jez and Stone Cold, we see the world as she sees it, but not necessarily as it is. The journey to discover what lies beneath, and to reconcile the choices her mother made with the choices she will have to make in the future, is what Bugs' own dystopian novel must traverse.
Hereaka's writing is beyond moving. It's powerful, confident, fresh. It reminded me of the first time I ever read Witi Ihimaera, Albert Wendt, Patricia Grace, Keri Hulme - it's like a veil is lifted, and I am reading the world as I see it, as I actually experience it.
I will be sorely disappointed if this book is not on the Awards list next year - it is every bit as important as any book I have read from New Zealand in years, and hope to see it receive the accolades and recognition that its talented writer surely deserves.