Book Review: My Story: Canterbury Quake, by Desna Wallace

Available in bookstores now.

Canterbury Quake is the latest installation of the populacv_canterbury_quaker ‘My New Zealand Story’ series; the debut novel of Christchurch writer Desna Wallace. Wallace skilfully recreates the fear and distress felt during and after the 2010-2011 Canterbury earthquakes, through the fictional diary of eleven-year-old Maddy.


Sometimes Maddy just wishes she could be like the other girls at school.  Then maybe her parents would buy her a cellphone for her birthday.  Maybe her sister wouldn’t be so bossy, and her little brother less annoying!  All the other girls – like Maddy’s best friend Laura – seem so much luckier than her…at least they have phones.  Maddy scribbles down her thoughts in her new diary day after day…and then the unimaginable happens.  Maddy’s world is changed forever, and cellphones become the last thing on her mind.

After the city is shaken awake on the 4th of September, 2010,  everything that Maddy’s family relied on crumbles. Routines are shattered, work buildings destroyed, schools shut down. The neighbourhood has become a labyrinth of detours and a strange sandy substance, lined with ever-present road cones.  Maddy records new words like “liquefaction” and “aftershock” in her diary, trying to make sense of the rapidly changing situation the city is in.

Maddy’s older sister Tessa has stopped talking to anyone, and her best friend Laura moves away from Christchurch, leaving Maddy to pair up at choir with a girl she barely knows.  Everyone is too scared to even go out to the movies anymore.  It feels as though nothing will ever be the same again…will Maddy and her family be able to cope with the aftermath of the quakes?


Canterbury Quake reminds readers that, in the face of disaster, we all have to accept each other’s differences and work together to be able to move on. Far from a dry book full of dates and facts, Canterbury Quake takes you right back to the September and February quakes, from the fresh perspective of a young girl living in the middle of the city. The bravery of the characters perfectly reflects Cantabrians’ reactions to the earthquakes. You will find yourself marvelling at how strong the spirits of a city’s people are. Everyone should read this book at least once; the earthquakes are part of Christchurch’s history, but they’re also a part of New Zealand’s history.

Reviewed by Tierney Reardon (who experienced the quakes first-hand)

My Story: Canterbury Quake
by Desna Wallace
Published by Scholastic NZ
ISBN 9781775431824

4 thoughts on “Book Review: My Story: Canterbury Quake, by Desna Wallace

  1. Pingback: 2015 New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults: Interview with Desna Wallace | My Best Friends Are Books

  2. Pingback: Canterbury Quake: Christchurch 2010-11, Desna Wallace

  3. Pingback: Shaky Scars | Hot Spot

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