Chosen by Sonya
An East Coast Maori boy wins a scholarship to an Auckland College where his ancestral beliefs collide with his private school education.
◉ “I had no idea that Into The River was a banned book when I chose it! I was after a Kiwi Young Adult’s book that would be a fun, easy read. And easy it was, drawing me in quickly from the first chapter. Fun, it was not. And it did become quickly apparent why it was a controversial piece, with every taboo subject covered off nicely: Under-age sex, drugs, paedophillia, homosexuality, violence, suicide and crime. And all within the context of a boys’ private school! The pace was quick and the characters were colourful. Yet I found it fell short of greatness. The ending left me unsatisfied and a little confused – I wanted the main character Te Arepa to be good. A hero I suppose, but he was a let down. I wanted his Maori heritage to raise him up, but it didn’t. I wanted there to be a message – an uplifting one – and there wasn’t. And the ending wasn’t happy. Perhaps I’m just too much of a lightweight romantic to have enjoyed this book?” – Sonya
◉ “Te Arepa occupies two very distinct worlds in this well told and interesting story – one of home heavy with cultural history and expectations and the boarding school world of pakeha and coming of age experiences.(However at the age of 14 a number of these are slightly alarming which adds to the interest factor). Te Arepa or Devon does seem like two different characters after he enters the boarding school world and takes part in all sorts of dodgy teenage events that culminate in a drastic change of circumstance and an unexpected ending. I thought there was a disappointing lack of a spiritual theme during the eel adventure at the start which felt like an opportunity missed however the story as a whole was hard to put down and thought provoking. I would love to know what Te Arepa is up to now!” – Jo
◉ “There was a naturalness to this book which I enjoyed. As if the author did not aspire to fit his content into a preconceived best-seller mould or be moralistic, but rather wished to write about real things which (fortunately and unfortunately) happen. The characters, their language and actions and their teenage anxieties were spelled out truthfully and the story progressed organically, not in a way which was forced. I particularly enjoyed the juxtaposition of Maori ancestory and storytelling with the private schooling usually spared for the white kids. Also, how the characters did not fit a stereotypical protagonist/antagonist mould – every character was both and neither at the same time, a nod to us all in the real world who exhibit both strengths and flaws on a daily basis. I knew this book had been banned and so was wary that graphic content may surprise me, but it was more mentioned in passing rather than being explicit, so I did not find it offensive.” – Rachel