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What Beauty There Is by Cory Anderson. Pub. Penguin Books, 2021.

May 21, 2021 Comments off

Set in Idaho in mid winter this suspense thriller for Young Adults is possibly the best book this year. If it was a rock band you would describe it as tight, if it was a film you would liken it to Fargo.

The background to the story is a robbery of a money laundering premises in which a suitcase of money has gone missing, hidden by a criminal who is violent and now in prison. The money is of drug origin and the gang is still after their loot.

Seventeen year old Jack and his six year old brother Matty are the sons of the man in prison and when we first meet them they are living in a cold house without heat or food and their mother has just hung herself after years of drug abuse. Jack buries his mother in the back garden and vows to himself that he will look after Matty.

At school Jack meets a tough shy girl called Ava who is described as “an animal peering out through human eyes”. She has a black tattoo of a heart on her wrist and keeps to herself. Jack helps her out at school and a bond begins between them that blossoms as the book progresses. Ava’s father was strongly implicated in the money laundering robbery and he wants the missing suitcase of money.

As carnage breaks out around them Jack and Matty link up with Ava without knowing that her father is chasing the money and will do anything to get it and does so. Jack suffers horribly and Ava for the first time in her life starts caring about someone.

The action is thrilling, compulsive and fast moving. The chapters are short and very readible hence the word tight in the opening paragraph. Each chapter has an introduction by the narrator who is mostly Ava looking back at what has happened. There is the occasional poem and a lot of talk about the human condition. The ending is gory and earth shattering but you can find that out for yourself.

The profile of the killer Bardem whose catch phrase is “whatever you put in that circle is yours to take’ is astonishing. Don’t miss this novel.

A superb novel. Take your time over it and relish every word. One of the best of the year.

The Dharma Punks by Ant Sang.

October 13, 2015 Comments off

dharma punksThe Dharma Punks by Ant Sang. Pub. Earths End, 2014.

This graphic novel for high school students and young adults is possibly the best graphic novel I have read by any author since Dylan Horrocks’ Hicksville.

I normally have difficulty reading graphic novels but not with this one. I finished it in two sittings, put it down and said WOW!

The novel evolved from the Dharma Punks comic series of the early 1990’s which were set around a punk band named Filth. It’s about rebellion, about the meaning of life on a higher plane, about existing in a hostile world, about the awkwardness of relationships and about the naivity of youth. It’s also about violence and exploitation but the innocence of it all shines through like a beacon.

Chopstick is the main character. He hasn’t gotten over the death of a female band member who jumped off Grafton bridge into the cemetery below. The others haven’t got over it either and are drifting aimlessly in life. Somethings gotta give and it does.

Lured into placing an allegedly harmless bomb at the opening of a fast food outlet by a large conglomerate, Chopstick and his mates have a night of wonder and violence. They are attacked by skinheads, Chopstick has a religious experience and all hell breaks loose.

In between chapters there are philosophical quotations from Bhuddism that talk about some of the deep things in life and are relevant to the action.

The graphics are superb and enhance the mood and character of the participants and the action. The ending is positive and the interaction and dialogue between the characters is real.

Set in Central Auckland, you will not read a better graphic novel than this.