The Nature of Ash by Mandy Hager
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I am impressed! This was a real adrenalin rush of a read - devoured in a matter of days. Pretty serious stuff, and all the more powerful because it's set in my country, in places I have a passing familiarity with. The writing style is compelling and I found the characters convincing. I especially liked the inclusion of Mikey, the younger brother with Downs Syndrome, and the relationship he had with Ash. Whilst other readers have commented on the language - I would have to say - this is probably set 10-20 years in the future - who's to say how teenagers will talk? The storyline was heartbreaking, brutal and tense, but with a healthy dose of humanity and a dash of humour. The political intrigue was fascinating - and very complicated. All too easy to believe with the world in the state it is. The little hints to how the world had changed really brought this future world to life without it feeling like things were being forced down your throat, but introduced them naturally. Indeed, I am tempted now to go back and read the rest of Hager's "Blood of the Lamb" trilogy for she is clearly a skillful author.
My only complaints - or to be precise, observations - are the storyline is littered with swearwords - which definitely fit the premise but may not be to the tastes of some readers and the occasional sexual thoughts of Ash felt a little cliched - like the author was writing them in because it was how she thought an 18 year old boy must feel. Otherwise, she managed to get into the head of a late-teen boy very well indeed. I found Mikey's behaviour very convincing: she seems to have a very sound knowledge of Downs Syndrome.
Overall, an excellent and compelling read and I highly recommend it for ages 16+ - it should certainly spur a lot of discussion about our political future if we continue in the way that we are going (selling off our assets overseas, etc). I hope it does well in the NZ Children's Post Book Awards, in which it is one of hte nominees.
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