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Into the River

3.45  ·  Rating details ·  408 ratings  ·  101 reviews
When Te Arepa Santos is dragged into the river by a giant eel, something happens that will change the course of his whole life. The boy who struggles to the bank is not the same one who plunged in, moments earlier. He has brushed against the spirit world, and there is a price to be paid; an utu to be exacted. Years later, far from the protection of whanau and ancestral lan ...more
Paperback, 279 pages
Published August 31st 2012 by Mangakino University Press
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Average rating 3.45  · 
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 ·  408 ratings  ·  101 reviews

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Sep 07, 2015 added it
"Under the interim ban it is now illegal to sell or supply this book anywhere in New Zealand."

"The NZ Post Children's Book Award winning novel, aimed at a teenage audience, contains explicit descriptions of sex and drug use, as well as an offensive term for female genitalia."

Since when did New Zealand have a giant carrot shoved up it's ass?
Emma Sea
Sep 14, 2013 rated it really liked it
Update Dec 2015: The Chief Censor who banned this book, Don Mathieson, has now "stepped down" from his position.

The book is no longer banned, and its previous R14 rating has been removed, meaning it is now unrestricted.

Mathieson said, "no responsible parent of a 17-year-old, let alone of a 12-year-old, would want this repetitive coarse language normalised." He saw the censor's job as being proscriptive - determining what should be allowed according to his preferred (Christian) standards, rather
Carol She's So Novel꧁꧂
Nothing like a banning to make one want to read a book!

Edit; looks like Amazon have now removed this book - for NZ anyway. Yesterday the print version was still available.

Edit 2 14/10/15 & sanity returns.

Edit 18/12/15 The controversy has helped Ted Dawe! My local library is now going to stock this book. Tee hee!


Banned Book Week seemed the right time to read this book.

As I stated above, my local library now stocks this book,complete with a
Sep 25, 2015 rated it it was ok
This started out so well. I was so enjoying reading about Te Arepa and his family and friends and the Maori culture. And then Te Arepa went off to boarding school and turned into a totally different character. From then on the story focussed on all the bad parts of school and teenage life and the reasons why some people wanted the book banned became apparent. Personally I do not agree with banning a book but at the same time I would not have wanted my own children to read a book like this before ...more
Jul 18, 2013 rated it really liked it
My copy of "Into the River", New Zealand's supreme winner in the NZPost Book Awards, came with a little black sticker cautioning "Parental Advisory, Explicit Content." on it. Man, I couldn't wait to read it as soon as I saw that! Talk about way to sell a book!

But the sordid pornography, gratuitous sex scenes, rampant drug taking and general reckless teenage behaviour that had been promised by neurotic parents and Family First campaigners, never actually materialised. Perhaps that's because those
Jenny (Reading Envy)
This was one of my book selections for Banned Books Week, although I have known about it for a while. It was the case of a book banning, full force, in the entire country of New Zealand. For a time, it was illegal to buy or sell this book, no matter your age or beliefs.

Does the book warrant this reaction? Well no, not really. And I imagine the protest the complaining agency had to be different than mine. The focus on the novel is a young Maori male who goes off to boarding school. The beginning
Feb 16, 2017 rated it really liked it

This NZ YA novel comes freighted with all the hoopla surrounding it's rather inexplicable "interim restriction" of September 2015 (since lifted). Made further curious by the fact it won the NZ Post Children's book award of 2013. I am going to put that storm in a Family First tea cup to one side for now and just consider what I made of the novel.

As someone who reads the majority of her fiction set in places other than NZ, it is always immediately comforting to be in a familiar location, and
Morag Gray
Jul 16, 2013 rated it did not like it
This book won the New Zealand Post Margaret Mahy Children's Book of the Year award this year (2013). It has been a controversial winner. Why am I giving it one star? Not because I am a Christian (I am) and I disapprove of premarital sex, alcohol, drug-taking, underage sex, violence and homosexuality (what people do is between them and their conscience and not my business). Here are some of my reasons.
**** SPOILERS ****
The first one is that I found it very difficult to place WHEN this story happe
Mel Murray
Mar 25, 2019 rated it liked it
I was looking to read a 'banned book' for one of my reading challenges. This is one that was banned in New Zealand and I'm not even sure why (considering the age group this book is aimed at...we are kidding ourselves if we don't think our 14-15 year old children don't know about any of these things)...the ban didn't last long before it was lifted so someone agrees with me. It started off quite well , I enjoyed the Maori feel and understood the little quirks very well, but I got lost in the last ...more
This book is the prequel to Ted Dawe's Thunder Road (2003), which won both the Young Adult and Best First Book awards in the 2004 NZ Children's Book Awards. Having read 'Into the River', I am very keen to read 'Thunder Road'. One of the things about a prequel is that it is always leading to a thoroughly told beginning, and so there is an inevitability to the story. Even though I haven't read Thunder Road, I could really feel the inexorable drive of this story. I think this is a real strength of ...more
D.C. Grant
Jun 29, 2013 rated it liked it
Into the River
***Warning: contains spoilers***

Much controversy has erupted over this book, stirred by its award as a ‘children’s’ book. This is not a children’s book, it is a young adult book dealing with issues young adults may encounter while progressing through the teenage years.

It has a slow start. For a start nothing much happens in the first few chapters – a day spent eeling and then a few more days spent retelling the history or kaupapa of the iwi relating to a European ancestor. Then th
Oct 18, 2013 rated it it was ok
As I started this book - no, actually, for the first half or more of this book I wondered what the controversy was all about. I didn't find it amazingly gripping but I was entertained and interested as to where the narrative was going and how the author was going to wrap all his themes up.

I've never read Thunder Road and I understand that this is a prequel to that - but I don't think that that is an excuse to write a ridiculously over-sized preface and bind it as a novel in its own right. Needle
Feb 15, 2016 rated it did not like it
Too sensationalised and it annoyed it. It was like it was trying too hard to be clever and when you only have limited minutes to spend on a book, I felt like I was wasting time even when I was flipping through the pages and not taking anything in!

Megan summed it up the best for me:
Sep 18, 2015 marked it as to-read
When hand-ringing conservatives ban a book, that is enough of a recommendation, to me, to buy it.

Nov 28, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Yes, I read it to see what the fuss was about. Felt the whole thing to be very underwhelming with unlikeable characters.
Apr 22, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-harder-2017
This book came with a great hype, having been banned in late 2015 in NZ. Still remember the "BANNED" logo plastered across the window of the TimeOut bookstore!

I am not sure why it was banned! It was a good novel, albeit it was controversial themes in the later half of the book. That said, I have read a lot more "revealing" and "in your face" novels that have, as opposed to been banned, have been lauded as bestsellers.

It is difficult to provide a comprehensive review of this book without giving a
Oct 12, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: coming-of-age, ya
In 2013, this novel won Book of the Year at the NZ Post Children's Book Awards, but after lobbying by the Christian lobby group Family First, it was finally banned in New Zealand last month and subsequently became very difficult to purchase (at realistic prices) in Australia. As I am a Senior School Teacher Librarian in a K to 12 school, I am responsible for purchasing all of the resources for students from years 9 to 12. I was therefore keen to read this book and to try to understand on what gr ...more
Kate Larkindale
Sep 21, 2015 rated it liked it
After all the controversy about this book, I had to read it to find out what was so damn awful readers can't be left to decide for themselves whether or not to read it. Having read it, I still don't know the answer. Yes, there is some sex. Some drugs. Some homosexuality. But nothing I haven't read in other young adult books. In fact, all these things are fairly minor parts of what isn't actually a great book.

There are several problems. To begin with, the time period remains murky. Kids have cell
Oct 04, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I probably wouldn't have ever stumbled upon this book if not the notorious ban that this book faced. Some mad religious people felt offended by such book and made it only more known to the world. To be honest, I've no idea why this book enraged those ultra-religious parents. They think teenagers don't have sex, right? Good luck with that...

The story plunges us into Maori world with its spiritual life and vocabulary, which made me seek out for a dictionary quite often (but that was very enjoyable
Jul 08, 2013 rated it liked it
Patches of real brilliance in this book. I don't think it is shocking, or immoral or worse than plenty of other YA I've read. I liked the characters and I liked their stories, I thought it showed the huge contrast between country life and city life in a realistic way and felt like I knew people just like those whose lives we glimpsed in the story. It would be a great book for a novel study in senior school with reluctant boys because there are so many layers. Yes it is brave, yes it has some goo ...more
Melinda Szymanik
Jul 21, 2014 rated it really liked it
This was a 3.5 star read for me. Although a little slow I really enjoyed the opening sequence. I thought the voice and background authentic. The writing was solid and the tone throughout the book on point.

I found it hard to connect with the main character Te Arepa/Devon though. While likable I found him a little remote and I wanted to know more about his motivations and choices. I felt too that the ending was rushed, the pacing suddenly squeezed with a switch to more telling than showing. The f
Kathleen Dixon
May 28, 2013 rated it liked it
This book has caught me at the wrong time of year (perhaps, or at the wrong few months in my life ...) because I loved the first half but then became quite depressed as the story kept going and Te Arepa / Devon kept making (or falling into) bad decisions. The book is really well-written, and the characters all fully believable - which is what also made it depressing for me. I could sympathise with, but I couldn't like any of the key characters. A shame.

Really this book deserves more than 3 stars
Soukyan Blackwood
Nov 21, 2015 rated it it was amazing
The rest of this long-winded review is at: [ Night Mode Reading ]
Te Arepa, a maori boy from a this world full of myths, legends, stories, chants, spirits, monsters, curses and so on, lands in an all-boys school in the city. It takes a lot to fit in. And to some, like him, it takes everything to even adjust. I'd say it's beautiful to see him change, but what I liked even more is how he got changed instead. By his friends, the no-backbone farmer, the bad-boy rebel, and mr seen-it-all. Te Arepa's
Lorraine Orman
Jun 24, 2013 rated it really liked it
A tough, gutsy page-turner that pushes the limits, just like Ted's earlier YA novel, Thunder Road. It's only just won the Senior Fiction Award in the New Zealand Post Children's Book Awards - against some very tough competition - and also scooped the Margaret Mahy Book of the Year Award. As a self-published book, this novel should now experience a huge increase in sales - way to go, Ted!
Mehwish Mughal
Sep 07, 2015 marked it as to-read
“A word to the unwise.
Torch every book.
Char every page.
Burn every word to ash.
Ideas are incombustible.
And therein lies your real fear.”
― Ellen Hopkins

Absolutely disgusted that New Zealand has banned this book!
Mandy Hager
Jun 22, 2013 rated it really liked it
Fantastic writing and brave choice of subject matter. Impressed by his bravery in dropping the c-bomb!
Lucca Jeanne
Aug 14, 2013 rated it it was amazing
great read, a bit boring to start with but once you gt into it its great, the main character is te arapa and he gets powers
Nov 25, 2018 rated it really liked it
This book is nothing at all like the description. Rather, it's the story of a boy from a remote community trying to find his place after receiving a scholarship to an elite boarding school in Auckland.
Teen fiction, this book was 'banned' in NZ after winning a children's book prize.
Aug 14, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: teen, new-zealand
Like many others I read this book only because of the social media storm that followed the two awards that it received - 2013 Young Adult Fiction category and the New Zealand Post Margaret Mahy Book of the Year. My stance has always been that before I form an opinion I should actually read the book. Well I've read it so here we go.

Te Arepa comes from the small rural community of Goldsmith's Bush where he has grown up among whanau and friends knowing his place and his whakapapa. When he gets not
Apr 18, 2016 rated it really liked it
Into the River by Ted Dawe is a coming-of-age and loss-of-innocence story which, albeit briefly, became the first book to be banned in New Zealand.

The story is about a Māori boy called Te Arepa “Devon” Santos. Having grown up on the rural East Coast, the fourteen-year-old boy wins a scholarship to attend an exclusive boy’s boarding school in Auckland.

Like many young adult novels set in schools and featuring teenagers as the main characters, the book contains its fair share of references to drug
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Ted Dawe, who has had a long career as a teacher, stunned readers with his impressive first novel, Thunder Road – winner of the Best First Book Award and Senior Fiction category of the coveted New Zealand Post Children's and Young Adults Book Awards. His subsequent YA novel K Road was published to warm reviews.

Into the River won the supreme Margaret Mahy Book of the Year award at the 2013 NZ Post

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