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

Wednesday 4 October 2023

Review: Borderland

This is a really fresh perspective on First Nations YA, and was a hugely enjoyable and gripping read.

Jono and Jenny have known each other all their lives and have just graduated as the inaugural First Nations scholarship students. 

Both enrol at Brisbane’s APAC (Aboriginal Performing Arts Centre) and almost as soon as they have started their respective courses are given an opportunity to be interns with a professional film crew.

The unit is undertaking a documentary to promote a huge government mining country with the intent of making it acceptable to the traditional owners of the area. 

Both young people are elated at the prospect and not just because of the film aspect. 

Jenny, because she is always keen to pursue her knowledge and involvement of her ancestry and Jono, because with not knowing his mob or his Country, he often feels rootless and out-of-place and hopes that the experience of being outback amongst other First Nations people might help guide him somewhat.

But things start going awry for Jono even before he’s left Brisbane, when he starts getting frightening hallucinations. Despite medical intervention, the eerie omens increase once he’s out at Gambari, and it’s not just himself that’s affected. Their director, Tabitha, is also seeing the malevolent dog-man and the whole project seems to be unravelling.

Is it because the mining proposal is not all it seems to be, and that sacred ground is being threatened? What else is being hidden and what needs to be revealed?

There is a lot to unpack in this gothic horror/eco-cautionary tale that makes it a real standout from other YA First Nations literature that has come my way. The writing is tight and crisp, with a terrific sense of timing, and rising action that will grip young readers from the start. The voices of the main characters are completely authentic, and of course, for me, the urban setting of Brisbane north was a real plus, as I could easily picture Jono’s home and neighbourhood.

This is a read with which young people will easily connect, and those who aren’t First Nations will enjoy it equally and, no doubt, come away with some insight into cultural perspectives of both urban and rural Indigenous people. I give it a big recommendation for older readers from about 15 (some sexual references, violence and profanity).

Author: Graham Akhurst
Publisher: UWA Publishing, $22.99
Date of Publishing: 2 October 2023
Format: Paperback
ISBN: 978760802646
For ages: 15+
Type: Young Adult Fiction