Bugs is a finalist in the Young Adult category of the New Zealand Post Book Awards for Children and Young Adults.
Set in Taupo (or somewhere remarkably similar), the novel centres on three protagonists: Bugs, Jez and Stone Cold. They are all at high school, and are a fairly unlikely threesome on the face of it. But their lives become intertwined in a whole raft of ways once Stone Cold arrives on the scene.
I don’t want to describe the book too much, or I’ll spoil it for you.
Essentially this novel could be described as a coming-of-age story. It’s an intensely Kiwi book. Hereaka pulls no punches and spares no grim details as she develops the storyline. It’s all there − the solo parent with aspirations for a better future for her child, the staggeringly dysfunctional wealthy family, the intense friendships, the drugs, the violence, the love, the passion, the neglect, the humour and the difficulties of getting through teenage years.
The language is rough, but real. The twists and turns in the story are challenging and confronting, and the issues faced by some teenagers, somewhere in NZ, every day are set out in all their raw, difficult, messy entirety.
I can imagine that there will be some adults who will find this book shocking, distasteful, uncomfortable in the extreme. Good. We need to be taken far from our comfort zones from time to time.
I can imagine that many older teenage readers will find this book speaks to them as no other NZ book for young people has done so far. It’s a real book about real people and it packs a huge punch.
It’s extremely well-written, it has heaps of humour, the characters (even the minor ones, like the chemistry teacher)are developed well, and I could not put it down.
I know that I’ll be recommending this book to the senior boys at the school where I am librarian. It may challenge and shock them, too, but one thing is certain – they will remember it.
Reviewed by Sue Esterman
by Whiti Hereaka
Published by Huia Publishers
We have an author Q & A coming up, but in the meantime here are the Booknotes Unbound ‘Five Easy Questions’ with Whiti Hereaka