A story about finding the way home, Maddy Dunn
18 May, 2021
Cuz, written by Liz van der Laarse is New Zealand’s version of Hatchet, a short survival novel about finding the way back home. The genre of this book is adventure fiction, and officially rated for children twelve years and over.
River is enjoying catching up with family, even though his uncle reminds him so much of his absent father. He’s also reminded how close his cousin Huia is to their Nan, who has taught her their Māori language, customs, protocols and medicine for much of her life. Her knowledge is annoying, but he puts his grumbles aside when offered a trip on her dad’s trawler. They soon enjoy each other’s company and he relaxes, thinking about what it would’ve been like to have his own dad around throughout his life.
Then the unthinkable happens. Icy ocean, remote beach, isolation, freezing rain, no food, shelter or communication. They are on their own to find their way back to their family and warm, cosy home. I found the excessive use of teenage slang really hard to read, and that it detracted from my enjoyment of the book.
I loved the survival tips and tricks scattered throughout the pages, as well as how the author brings the story to life using descriptive writing. One example of a really fascinating, and super helpful survival tip is that kaikomako and mahoe leaves are substitutes for matches and wood to create a fire.
In some ways, Cuz is similar to The Hunger Games, written by Suzanne Collins. Both stories share the same theme of surviving under extreme circumstances without an easy supply of food or water. Awful Auntie by David Walliams and Cuz are also alike in some ways, as both of the stories have the main topic of escaping from something terrible. In this case, Cuz was about escaping the wilderness to get home.
The story frequently deals with making traps and foraging for food, which becomes repetitive and a little annoying at times. Even though it is an important topic, the repeating could have been reduced by writing the sentence in different formations. I feel as though the purpose of this story is to educate kids about horrible disasters that can occur, and how to maturely deal with them.
I like the character Huia, because even at the roughest of times she keeps trying, with fierce determination and a positive attitude. Her knowledge of nature keeps them safe, especially when the problem of starting a fire without matches and dry branches occurs. River is also a great character, but really down in the dumps about even just the slightest things. His character is more stubborn and independent, which is helpful at times but also a con for surviving.
Overall, I reckon that this story will be hooking to readers all over New Zealand. It wasn’t my first choice but was still a good-quality, well-written book.
Maddy Dunn is 12 years old and lives in Christchurch.