'The best books, reviewed with insight and charm, but without compromise.'
- author Jackie French

Monday 5 December 2022

Review: A Walk In The Dark

Firstly, let me say that it’s wonderful to have a story that inhabits our Great Ocean Road wilderness in the context of a gripping novel. Set in the hinterland behind Apollo Bay, this narrative is one that stays with the reader long after the book is closed.

We follow a group of five year 9 students as they embark on a ‘dropping’ – their Dutch teacher’s idea of a resilience and independence building exercise, which is really just a very long walk back to school, through dense bushland. In the dark.

Luckily, the teacher has also chosen the night of a full moon for the walk. And even more luckily, the massive storm that’s brewing will appear well after the kids are all safely back at school drinking hot chocolate in front of the fire. Or will it?

Five head into the forest, but will all five make it out?

A dramatic and fitting by-line - this is indeed an unputdownable book. Set over a 24 hour period, the suspense is masterfully built and the character behaviours are deftly explored. With intricate and rather interesting backstories, their actions are not always explained but are sometimes simply left for the reader to ponder over. Some of these character traits are resolved through the narrative and some are not, which is exactly as it should be. 

There’s something in this book for everyone: having two mums, living with autism, parents not being what they seem, developing compassion, having to prove yourself, social isolation, self-soothing, infatuation, self-loathing. There are characters to relate to, characters to dislike and rail against, situations to make your toes curl and discoveries that cause ‘ahas’ by the truckload. 

The story contains explorations of the psyche as it delves into both the best and worst of human nature. It also pops into the narrative a 5-year-old child who’s lost in the forest overnight, a massive storm complete with lightning strike and a Ute full of drunken hoodlums with rifles. It’s a heady mix.

The situations and incidents are believable enough as we roll from one conundrum into the next. The structuring of the story is clever and supports the deliberate, slow reveal of hair-raising plot-lines, character surprises and deeper truths.

It’s not the traditional walk in the park, but it’s definitely a very satisfying afternoon of reading!

Title: A Walk In The Dark
Author: Jane Godwin
Publisher: Lothian, $16.99
Publication Date: August 2022
Format: Paperback
ISBN: 9780734420770
For ages: 9 - 11
Type: Junior Fiction / Middle Grade Fiction