An inspiring environmental tale, Nell Mace-David
“So, when the awa is sick like this one is, so are we… We have a saying, ‘Ko au te awa, ko te awa ko au – I am the river and the river is me’.”
In Troubled Waters by Anna Kenna, budding journalist Caitlin is excited about spending what she thinks is going to be a peaceful summer at her grandfather’s bach. But it seems that stories follow her wherever she goes. When she first gets a bad virus, she thinks it is just a stomach bug. But, after a while she starts to get suspicious that she really got it from some bacteria at the local swimming hole, especially after the warnings the locals are giving her.
Deciding that her journalism interests could be put to good use, she contacts her friend Megan Ryan, who works for The Courier, asking if it would be possible to make a story out of this event. They test the water at the swimming hole, and it comes back positive for E. coli. The story is a go!
But it seems that the water isn’t the only thing that’s troubled. Caitlin’s story has stirred up some hard feelings, especially within the people from the local marae. Through her new friend Anahera, whose grandparents run the marae, Caitlin learns that Anahera’s family have been trying to warn the council of the same problem with the river that Caitlin discovered for a long time. Caitlin starts to realise how unfair it is that she was recognised for mentioning the same problem, while Anahera and the marae have been completely ignored.
With the help of Megan and Anahera, Caitlin discovered that the E. coli in the swimming hole comes from runoff from nearby dairy farms. As a way of battling this problem, they organise a meeting with the dairy farmers at the marae to bring the community together. But, as it turns out, the farmers aren’t very happy about being called out for how polluting dairy farms can be. On top of all this, a severe storm warning has gone out, and the river is expected to flood. Can Caitlin and her friends, new and old, solve the polluted river problem and survive a massive storm before it’s too late?
Troubled Waters is an inspirational book about the importance of culture and making sure that the environment is being looked after.
Kenna has spun a lovely tale of community, while also drawing attention to real-world issues, such as pollution and global warming. The characters were very real, and I really felt for them. I constantly found myself wishing that everything would turn out all right. The setting and events were so clear and something I am sure has happened somewhere in NZ. I think that what I most loved about this book was how it was lighthearted yet addressed serious issues. Kenna really manages to not make the issues seem too intense, but also like they are something that urgently needs fixing (which they are by the way, in case you were wondering).
I do have to admit that when I read about this book, I wasn’t really expecting there to be anything about the importance of community and culture, but I enjoyed it all the same.
I would recommend this book to ages 12+, and especially to people who like to read about environmental issues or journalism, or just if you want to read a book that feels like it could be happening near you somewhere. Read on, and I hope that you enjoy this book just as much as I did.
- Nell is 13, homeschooled, and lives in Dunedin