Book Club Pick: May 2017
Author: Whiti Hereaka
Series: Stand alone novel
Country: New Zealand
Publisher: Huia Publishers
First Published: 2013
Meets Bugs: smart, sarcastic, sixteen and stuck in a small town without a driver’s licence.
Bugs has been best mates with Jez forever; they’re always been Jez and Bugs, Bugs and Jez. That is until Stone Cold, the new girl arrives in town. The year was already going to be a challenge without adding spoilt, bitchy Stone Cold to the mix. Why would anyone want to be mates with her?
But things are never as they seem on the surface – not the picture-perfect postcard views of Taupo, not the drama-queen antics of Stone Cold, not the quiet brooding of Jez. Not even Bugs.
Now, as the future closes in, each will struggle with expectations: either trying to live up to them or trying to live them down.
The central character and narrator is Bugs, a sixteen-year-old Māori girl that has aspirations to study law at university.
Bugs’ best friend is Jez. Both are children of solo mothers. Bugs’ mother is hard working and works double shifts as a cleaner at a hotel to provide a better life for Bugs. Jez’s mother on the other hand can be neglectful and has had a succession of dead-end boyfriends, including some who have been abusive to Jez.
It has always been just Bugs and Jez that is until Charmaine arrives in town. Jez quickly takes a shine to Charmaine and Bugs becomes her friend by default. Although if it wasn’t for Jez Bugs wouldn’t want anything to do with Charmaine, whom she nicknames Stone Cold. She thinks of her as spoilt and does not like how Charmaine does not appreciate how privileged she is.
The novel is set in Taupo, New Zealand. I grew up in Taupo and this is the first novel I have read set in the small town I grew up in. I felt a strong connection to it. The author named the street my parents have two businesses on, the geothermal area behind my primary school was referenced, I had eaten in the airplane above the McDonald’s playground and I had walked many of the same streets the characters walked.
This coming-of-age story tackles the issues of Māori achievement in the education system, cultural identity, domestic violence, alcohol and drug use, and doing what or going against what society expects of you.
A word of warning the novel features strong language and sexual references (nothing explicit).
Source: I borrowed this book from my public library.