Skip to content
Reviewed by Ashika Hira
Opening sentence
A magical book about self-discovery, reviewed by Ashika Hira
December 14, 2022

Tim Te Maro and the Subterranean Heartsick Blues is a magical, queer romance novel for YA readers set in the Fox Glacier High School for the Magically Adept. Written by H.S. Valley and published in 2021 by Hardie Grant Books, it follows year 13 student Tim Te Maro, who has recently been dumped. He must now juggle this heartache along with NCEA, learning magic and the recent abandonment of his father. As he figures out who he is independent of his father and his recently ex-girlfriend, he must also make sense of these surging feelings he hasn’t been able to quell. As Tim discovers these new feelings, all the while battling his losses, an unexpected relationship is formed, one no one saw coming.

Tim Te Maro just got dumped by his girlfriend, only months after his dad left him and his mum, and to say Tim doesn’t feel great would be an understatement. Which is probably why he agreed to partner up with his nemesis Elliott Parker who is also feeling the sting of a recent dumping by his roommate and ex friend (with benefits). They have their egg baby assignment coming up in class and since neither of them want to be stuck with their exes for a month as co-parents, they decided that being together would be mutually beneficial. Their exes, who are now together, will have their relationship tested and Tim and Elliott will be stuck with each other which is (apparently) the better option. Being fathers of an egg baby with your arch nemesis has its struggles, but also some unexpected feelings. With all the time they’re spending together they can’t help the feelings that spring up between them, and their tentative friendship soon turns into something much more… but with strictly no strings attached. What could possibly go wrong?

This arrangement provides Tim with the opportunity to explore these feelings he’s been having without any pressure, and at first, it works. But as they spend more time together Tim can’t ignore the flood of emotions that rise up every time Elliott touches him. This wasn’t supposed to happen; he wasn’t supposed to like Elliott. Their arrangement depended on no commitment. No strings attached. Tim must get his feelings under control before Elliott catches on.

Trying not to let anyone catch on to what is happening between them also becomes increasingly harder, especially after a very drunken night out which neither of them can remember. Something happened that night - something that may not be reversible, and which could possibly out them to the school. But that isn’t the worst bit! Things get serious, in more ways than one. Drowning in both his feelings and the need to solve this pressing issue, Tim must find a way to deal with the situation he finds himself in, but with obstacles popping up left, right, and centre it won't be easy. Tim needs to get out of his head and confront his feelings face-on, but will he have the courage to step off the cliff without knowing what lies at the bottom?

This was a charming book about self-discovery that had me laughing out loud on more than one occasion. It’s such a cute, funny, and lighthearted read that I absolutely devoured in one sitting. From the first page Tim’s voice is so potent, and we as readers really get to understand him through the language used. This book gave me Rainbow Rowell Carry On vibes, and I loved that about it, so would definitely recommend it for any fans of her books. I also loved the idea that there is a school of magic somewhere under Fox Glacier, and I thought that it was such a relatable and engaging topic. Not in the sense that there is a magic school here (I wish!), but through the language and general topics that were just so Kiwi. The connection between magic and culture was also such an original and brilliant concept, I just wish it was expanded upon further.

I do wish that parts of the plot were fleshed out a bit more, especially with regards to Henry's disappearance. It is such a lovely book, but I felt that expanding upon and developing the plotline would have given more depth to the characters and helped the audience connect and understand them better. I also felt that the ending was a bit rushed and would have loved for it to be more detailed as there were a few loose ends that weren’t tied off.

Overall, this was such an enjoyable book to read and would definitely recommend it if you want a feel-good, funny book to read.

- Ashika is 17 and lives in Hastings
Author & Illustrator: H.S Valley
Publisher: Hardie Grant Books