Spoiler Alert: This text is studied in Year 9 (CCAS)
“Life for Harry means swimming in Pearce Swamp, eating chunks of watermelon with his brother and his dad, surviving schoolyard battles, and racing through butterflies in Cowper’s Paddock. In his town there’s Linda, who brings him the sweetest-ever orange cake, and Johnny, whose lighting fists draw blood in a blur, and there’s a mystery that Harry needs to solve before he can find a way out…
By the River is about feeling the undercurrents, finding solid ground and knowing when to jump.”
I read this verse novel sitting on a big rock next to the river at Noosa; the Queensland heat and humidity made me feel like I was there, in Harry’s world, watching his story unfold. Written as a series of poems, the novel is surprisingly quick to read, the language is concise and potent. It is not a plot-driven story, but the characters and their personal journeys carry you through this beautifully written tale. It’s a compelling and raw account of what it means to grow up as well as the tremendously difficult task of dealing with loss and love. Steven Herrick is an Australian writer who has written a few great verse novels (including The Simple Gift a prescribed belonging text for the HSC), but this is my favourite.
Recommended for ages 14 and up. 4 1/2 stars.