Wednesday, June 6, 2012

The Nature of Ash by Mandy Hager

Boom!  A new book by Mandy Hager! Her book Smashed is so popular here, I was really pleased when this new one turned up.  The Nature Of Ash is about a 17 year old university student called Ashley who has left home for the first time, finding his way in his first year of freedom from home and family life.  This is a big thing for him because when he was a small boy his mother died and his Dad has bought him and his brother, who has Down Syndrome, up alone. This has led to a really close relationship between the three of them.  Ash has had big responsibilities all his life, a Dad who is a union activist and always controversial and newsworthy and a brother who needs constant help and supervision and no Mum. Now with the political situation

The action starts from page 2!  With police flying Ash home to deal with the horrific situation which has left his Dad dead and needing to be identified, dealing with his own and his brothers grief.  It turns out that the bombing which has killed his Dad is just the beginning of a bigger escalation in a power play between the world powers.  The world has become divided, the major powers have realigned and politics has completely changed in the world.  New Zealand is being dragged into an international situation which won't have a good outcome for anybody.  Corruption is everywhere and the politicians have become puppets for bigger more powerful groups of countries.

As warships are massing in the harbour, train-lines are being disrupted, bombings are happening in all the major cities, violence, rioting and mistrust are prevailing and Ash is involved in a dangerous journey to search for the mother he thought was dead.  A journey he is undertaking with Jiao, a young Asian girl who is trying to rescue her parents, Mikey his brother who is a handful at the best of times but under pressure like this is likely to blow. Then there is Travis who has been lumped in with them for reasons Ash is increasingly suspicious of.  They will travel north, into the wilds of New Zealand, they will be lied to and treated really badly, it will be dangerous, but they will also meet with incredible kindness.  Ash doesn't know who to trust, and when he does trust people it doesn't always turn out to be for the best. 

If you have enjoyed Divergent or The Bridge and like a really fast paced thriller then you will connect with this book.  You will also find a strong message in this book, a commentary on the state of the world, politics, the importance of family, trust and loyalty.  I found myself waking up to think about this book, staying up very late to get it read, it was just so exciting.  Occasionally I had to come up for a breather because the pace was so relentless.  I think our students will relate to Ash and it will certainly make them think about New Zealand's place in the world.  I was particularly terrified by the idea of only being able to have a shower for 2 minutes - that would be awful on a cold morning!

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