Blankets – Craig Thompson

This graphic novel was beautiful.  The story was touching and very well crafted. It’s a story of growing up, your first love and the challenges that come with being in a very religious family. We follow the author Craig as he’s growing up, this is semi-autobiographical, realistic-fiction, some parts actually happened and some are made up as they make for a better story. The art work is great, a little rough, which makes it compelling.  The book is thick, but the story was so good I couldn’t put it down and read the entire thing in an evening.  Craig’s feelings for Raina come through amazingly, you can practically feel what he feels.  This story is heart breaking, painful, beautiful and definitely worth the read. You’ll finish it in no time, it’s that good, I promise.

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Into the river – Ted Dawe

For those who don’t know, this book was up for consideration to be banned in New Zealand.  I can see why some would have thought this, but glad New Zealand was mature enough to decide not to ban it.  In fact I recently read that it’s getting a movie deal. If you read the abstract for this book it actually tells you nothing about the story. In fact I think the abstract for this book is pretty awful and useless. This story is about Te Arepa, who is called Devon for most of the book, Te Arepa is an identity he sheds pretty quickly into the book. He is incredibly smart and gets into a private boarding school where he finds a new identity amongst the city and white European New Zealand culture, where he names himself Devon, and sheds his Maori identity. That in itself speaks volumes as he now doesn’t fit in with his own people anymore and doesn’t really fit in with the rich white crowd at his school either. I’m not really sure how reflective this actually is as to what is happening with New Zealand’s Maori youth, but it doesn’t seem too far-fetched. Most of the book happens during Devon’s high school years, the friends he makes, the girls he hooks up with and the shameful and naughty things he gets up to at his boarding school in Auckland so far away from his family in the rural North.  I read this book to completion, but found it a little challenging as I can’t really identify with Devon and his completely male boarding school, I have no actual real life experience with the things he was meant to handle and that made it difficult to keep my attention.  I can see why it was considered for ban though, it alludes to paedophilia (Student-teacher relationships), sex scenes and a rape scene, so if you’re looking at reading this or suggesting someone read it I would rate this as senior read with an age restriction of 16+.

Mortal Fire – Elizabeth Knox

If you like magic and mysterious circumstances you’ll like Mortal Fire. This is the story of Canny Mochrie and how she finds her magic.  Set in Southland (a fictional New Zealand) in 1959, Canny is a Pasifika girl and a mathematical genius who can see something Extra.  That’s how she describes the magic she can see in and on things, they are runes she can’t understand, and no one else can see them.

Canny ends up being shipped off on a trip with her step-brother Sholto over the summer, forcing her to leave the bedside of her best friend Marli who is struck in an iron lung due to Polio. She is anxious and a bit surly until she stumbles upon the magical Zarene Valley and manipulates the situation so she and Sholto must stay at the Zarene family guesthouse.  She then uses her time there to figure out the magic runes that the Zarene’s teach their children.

The plot thickens when she stumbles upon a be-spelled house which imprisons an attractive young man, Ghislain.  As she gets to know him, they fall in love, though if you ask me it is a little bit quick and forced. And as she is discovering more and more about the secrets of magic and the valley, she discovers even more about herself.

This book as some great themes: tragedy, first love, friend and family relationships, all mixed together with magic and mystery told by a pasifika-esque voice which is a rarity in itself.  I enjoyed unravelling this thread and reckon many others might too.