Ted Dawe’s book Into the River recently came under fire from a conservative Christian lobby group who hoped to have it banned because it contained sex, drugs and inappropriate language.
So of course I was going to pick it up and read it.
Whenever I read a banned book, or a book some group tried and failed to have banned, I can sometimes see why certain people might have wanted that but also think they are wildly and wholly wrong for trying to force their own agenda on others.
Yes, Into the River has several sex scenes (and mention of an incestual encounter), it has drugs and bad language and characters who are reckless and break the law. And even a pedophile to top the whole thing off. Now, I’m not saying really little kids should pick this up and read it, but for a mature teen audience it could be a great read. Books like this help start a dialogue about these taboo topics. They get teens to ask questions. If you just try to hush it all up and pretended stuff like this doesn’t happen, it’s likely that kids will get into it anyway but be significantly unprepared for it.
This is a pretty standard coming of age tale. Our protagonist, Te Arepa, later known as Devon, leaves his life on the rural east coast to attended a prestigious boarding school in Auckland. The mere fact the book takes place at a boarding school is a dead giveaway that shit is about to go down. I don’t think I’ve read a book about a boarding school where things didn’t get crazy (Harry Potter, anyone?).
Devon is at a very impressionable age, and during the span of his first year at Barwell’s he grows and changes immensely. Most of the time he is following in the footsteps of his best friend Steph, who is a boarding school vet and all about being free. Which created an interesting dynamic between the two boys. Steph was all about freedom and Devon, who hung on Steph’s every word, followed him without question.
The book ended mostly in a way I expected but the last paragraph did take me a little by surprise. This book is a prequel to Dawe’s Thunder Road, so I may have to pick that up next just to see what happens to Devon.
If you want to read a bit more about the controversy surrounding the book you can check out this article here.