A meaningful and uplifting read, Ritika Joseph
March 02, 2022
‘The day his father walked out of prison was the best and the worst in a series of grey days, all stacked up in an outsider’s life.’
From that first sentence, I was hooked, and continued to be hooked until the very last words of Nikau’s Escape by Kate S Richards.
Jabu and his friend Kyle visit New Zealand, and are captivated by Pania and her country, Aotearoa, the land of the long white cloud. They join Pania, her brother Nikau and their friends on a winter adventure – on a mountain that is about to erupt. Lost in the resulting avalanche and pursued by Nikau’s father, a released prisoner – the group need a hero.
Where to begin?
The New Zealand flavour for one. From the local lingo to the myths and legends to the locations where this story takes place – the spirit of Aotearoa shines out through every page. Māori culture and words also pop up multiple times. I learned many new words and smiled upon coming across old ones. And not only Māori. The glossary at the start of the book contained all sorts of words, from South African to New Zealand lingo. I loved Nikau and Pania’s pepeha too.
Moving on to the characters. Almost all of them are instantly likeable, and everyone will find at least one thing in common with the range of personalities. Richards has managed to make the people in her story, well, people. Actual live human beings, with flaws and minds of their own.
The characters’ development in the story is remarkable. I reached the end, looked back at those same characters at the beginning, and was amazed by how much they matured over the course of 191 pages – Nikau especially. I’ll admit, my first impression of him was of a cold, uncaring boy with fundamentally wrong morals. But throughout the book, I realised that he did have a conscience. He made a few mistakes, but who doesn’t? I gazed at the transformed boy at the end of Nikau’s Escape with awe.
But this book was part of a trilogy, and so when I visited the first book, Trainsurfer, once more, I was also shocked by Jabu. He goes from a vulnerable orphan boy with a broken surfboard to a leader, to someone who others look up to. The metamorphosis is extraordinary.
My favourite characters were the Greenhouse kids. They were so sweet and innocent, and my heart melted just reading about them.
That brings me to the family relationships that are so key to this story. From the Greenhouse Kids and Jabu to Nikau, Pania, Papa Joe, and Ma, family – blood-related or not – is a major theme.
There is also some violence and alcohol and drug use, and it is actually rather important to the story, so if you aren’t comfortable with any of that, don’t read it, but it should be fine for readers aged 12 and up.
As I mentioned before, this is the third book in a trilogy. The books can be read as standalones but reading the first two might give you a deeper understanding and connection to the characters.
Nikau’s Escape is an inspiring book, and I would readily recommend it to anyone who enjoys YA.
In fact, it’s probably one of my favourite books. If you’re searching for a good read that is also meaningful and will leave you feeling uplifted as you read the last words, well, Nikau’s Escape is the book for you.
- Ritika is 12 years old and lives in Christchurch.