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Reviewed by Nova Gibson, Massey Primary, Auckland
Opening sentence
The way I see things is like a comic.
Rachel Fenton, a graphic artist, has written her first novel and it’s set in Tāmaki Makaurau’s surf lifesaving scene.

Mandy is fourteen years of age and desperately wants to beat Jen, a rival and bully, in the upcoming surf lifesaving competitions. Mandy knows her limits: she’s better in the water than on land, is suffering from PTSD and her family seems to be falling apart.

This novel is written entirely in the first person and I did find the first few chapters confusing and wondered what was going on. The ‘stream of consciousness’ from Mandy’s perspective aptly reflects the challenges life has thrown at her and how her mind is processing it all. I found the narrative a little disjointed, requires concentration when reading and is definitely not a light read.

Despite the sad and traumatic events in Mandy’s life, this novel is not as depressing as it sounds. There are moments of humour, for instance the sighting of rats attracted by the food Mandy has discarded on her runs. Hope is also showcased through Mandy’s goals in surf competition, her self-care with diet, exercise and talking with a counsellor.

Mandy describes seeing her life as a series of freeze frames like a comic, and is a talented artist. Her teacher submits some of Mandy’s creativity for possible publication. Her wordless graphic novel is included in the book between part one and two.

Readers of high school age will identify with the peer relationships in the novel, and find some hope in a traumatic life. There are numbers to call for help just inside the front cover. This would be a great addition to any school library.

Do you have any advisory warnings for this book? Deals with grief, PTSD

Would this book work as a read aloud? Not particularly

Is there a particular part of the country that it’s set in? Auckland’s beaches
Author & Illustrator: Rachel Fenton
Publisher: Ahoy
ISBN: 9781991150837
Format: paperback
Publication: November 2022
Ages: 12+
Themes: grief, dysfunctional relationships, self-care