A heart-pumping wild adventure, Sophie Whittaker
June 01, 2021
Spending time with your family, enjoying the scenic landscape and eating lots of seafood. That sounds great doesn’t it? Well, everybody hopes for the best to happen and not the worst when travelling over the sea.
Fourteen-year-old cousins River and Huia are hoping for the best when they go fishing with Huia’s dad, Tau, on his trawler Whetū. When things go terribly wrong, River and Huia are left to fend for themselves in the West Coast wilderness and they have to let their differences wither away and work together to survive.
“They’ll be looking for a trawler, won’t they… not two kids in the forest.” She swallowed. River kept his eyes on her face. Her words hung in the air between them.”
Liz van der Laarse has really infused this novel with Māori culture. Most Pākehā in this beautiful country wouldn’t have known what the rituals and words in this novel meant. At the start I didn’t understand many of them until I got deeper into the book and the phrases were used more and more. It is great how at the end of the book there is a glossary of the Māori words that were used throughout the book and their meanings.
“She was an annoying 8-year-old, poncing around knowing everything tikanga Māori. Making him feel even dumber than he already felt. And now here they were, both fourteen.”
I can relate to River when he is in situations where he doesn’t know how to do something or he doesn’t understand the te reo Māori his family are using. At times he has a playful attitude which adds humour to bits of the book. Huia on the other hand is quite serious and bossy but I like how she never gives up and how she demonstrates strong connections with Māori culture.
The front cover of Cuz is a great fit and the illustrator has done an awesome job. The font used in the title looks like someone just scribbled the words on and that makes it a great hook for readers. In the top right corner there is a quote written in small jumbly letter saying “To survive they must rely on each other.” This quote gives a hint of what is going to happen in the book and it indicates that the novel is going to be a survival story.
After reading this story I was intrigued by one of the small sentences on the front page that said New Zealand’s version of Hatchet. I had never read the book Hatchet before and I didn’t even know what a hatchet was, so one day when I was in the school library I found it and started reading. Hatchet and Cuz are very relatable with their young characters and catastrophes that happen. The author of Hatchet, Gary Paulsen, manages to portray a huge amount of time in one little book and he only described certain days, whereas Cuz illustrates up to about five weeks of time but the author uses a different writing technique because she writes about every day in full detail.
I believe that Cuz would be a great pick for all readers who enjoy nature, survival stories and stories that include Māori culture. This novel will keep you sitting on the edge of your seat and agreeing and disagreeing with the characters.
Liz van der Laarse has done a great job of intertwining Māori culture into this book and you are bound to learn something new. Cuz is a book that you will not want to put down and the action-packed storyline will keep you reading it late into the night.
- Sophie Whittaker is a student on the West Coast .