By The River

Spoiler Alert: This text is studied in Year 9 (CCAS)

By the River - Steven Herrick

“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.

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The Kite Runner

The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini

“Twelve-year-old Amir is desperate to gain the approval of his father and resolves to win the local kite-fighting tournament, to prove that he has the makings of a man. His loyal friend, Hassan promises to help him – for he always helps Amir – but this is 1970’s Afghanistan and Hassan is merely a low-caste servant who is jeered at in the street, although Amir feels jealous of his natural courage and the place he holds in his father’s heart. But neither of the boys could foresee what would happen to Hassan on the afternoon of the tournament, which was to shatter their lives. After the Russians invade and the family is forced to flee to America, Amir realises that one day he must return, to find the one thing that his new world cannot grant him: redemption.”

Don’t remember how I got my hands on this book, but I distinctly remember finding it excellent. It was the book that changed the books I read; since then I have been fascinated with historical and political fiction based in Afghanistan, Iran, Pakistan (and various other Middle Eastern nations) and India. It was such a vibrant and compelling story that swept me along through an intriguing and enlightening cultural experience. The tale is an honest and tragic one, simply devastating in parts. It keeps you asking questions, big ones about loyalty, heroism, redemption, forgiveness and guilt.

Again, some heavy issues and moderate violence, recommended for ages 16 and up. 4 1/2 stars.