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Reviewed by Savarna Yang
Opening sentence
It is unseasonably hot.
Call Me Madeleine by Kate S Richards follows the journey of 17-year-old climate activist Maddy as she experiences a time in her life that will change her forever. Set in a futuristic reimagining of New Zealand, this novel covers themes of climate change, family and the differences and similarities between generations.

After Maddy is discovered sneaking out at night to meet her boyfriend, Liam, her parents decide to send her to spend the holidays at her grandpa’s house in the secluded countryside. But Maddy’s pro-climate action stance raises tensions between her and her grandpa – he does not believe in global warming and disapproves of the steps Maddy is taking over it. Things go from bad to worse when she speaks up at the local community meeting in the hope of preventing development at the nearby wetland. Her grandpa is furious with her and the townspeople are divided by opposing views. But then a series of climate disasters strike the countryside and Maddy must find a way to save the people she loves most.

I think the thing that I enjoyed most about Call Me Madeleine was the world-building. The futuristic world is believable, integrating elements from present day life with realistic futuristic elements seamlessly – I got a picture of New Zealand in maybe 20 or 30 years’ time. ‘In the cycle lane, people of all ages whiz along on electric bikes, feeling the breeze in their hair. In the left-hand lane of the motorway, modular shapes ghost busses, driverless taxis and cars edge forward.’ The descriptions of the settings are great – original, but also convincing. It was nice to have the novel set firmly in Aotearoa as well as it made the story a lot more relatable and I could more easily imagine myself in Maddy’s situation.

The relationships in this novel were well thought through – for example, the reader could see from the start how toxic Maddy and Liam’s relationship is and then later on there is good chemistry created between Maddy and Chris. The relationship between Maddy and her grandpa is also a very clever way to portray the message of how everyone has to work together to be able to battle climate change.

The characters all mostly seemed like they could be people you might see in everyday life, and I think this was nice because it means that most readers will be able to find some part of a character that they relate to in Call Me Madeleine. However, I did feel that the character of Chris pushes his religion too hard – on Maddy and the reader. Call Me Madeleine essentially belongs to the YA Christian Fiction genre but this is not obvious from the blurb or until the reader is well into the story. This factor might make it harder for this novel to gel with a general audience than if Richards had included a variety of religious perspectives that represent wider society.

One thing I found distracting in Call Me Madeleine was the way the characters continuously say ‘ya’ and ‘gonna’ and ‘kinda’, et cetera. The informal language definitely worked in some parts and for some characters, but in other places it felt a bit forced. I think this was in the more serious scenes and dialogue – the colloquialisms just took away from the gravity of the moment.

My favourite scene in the book would have to be the end – I really loved it and I think it was a fitting way to end the novel. It was simple but it stressed the key message of this book – the urgency of climate change – while also finishing on a hopeful note.

Call Me Madeleine is an interesting and original novel, full of beautiful imagery and with an original plotline. It would probably be most suited to readers interested in YA Christian fiction who are 13+.

- Savarna is 15 and lives in Ōtepoti, Dunedin.
Author & Illustrator: Kate S Richards
Publisher: Green Room House
ISBN: 9780473600938
Format: Paperback
Publication: October 2021
Ages: 13+
Themes: Climate change, faith, family