Heartbreaking and realistic, Heidi Gibbons
09 March, 2021
I am Daniel Tahi is a romance novel by Lani Wendt Young set in a high school in Samoa. It centers around two main characters, Daniel and Leila. Daniel is head boy at his school. He is described as a good leader and loves playing rugby. Daniel is back at school for his final year after spending a year away from school after his grandfather passed away. Daniel thinks he has life sorted out, until Leila arrives…
Leila arrives from America to visit her aunt and uncle for the summer and begins attending the same school as Daniel. She is fierce, funny and smart. During a debate at school, Leila decides she doesn’t like Daniel but he is immediately in love with her and tries hard to win her over. He manages to do this; however, their relationship doesn’t run smoothly and this affects other areas of Daniel’s life, including his relationship with his mum and his commitment to school.
Although this book is set in Samoa there are similarities with school and family life in New Zealand, so it made the book relatable and easy to follow. As a European/Samoan who has never been to Samoa I enjoyed learning new words and getting some insight into what it might be like to live and go to school in Samoa.
I think one of the messages in the story is to not let anyone distract you from doing what you love. This is what happens to Daniel in the book. After he gets distracted by Leila, he finds it hard to get back on track and this is a good lesson for teenagers to learn. Lani Wendt Young describes teenage life as difficult sometimes. I found her writing heartbreaking and realistic.
I loved this book; it was really gripping, and I wanted to keep reading. I liked the way Young built up the romance in the story as well as the drama. The character I related to most was Daniel and I felt for him when Leila was a bit mean to him. There were some things I liked about Leila; for example her honesty, but I mostly found her annoying.
I would recommend this book to older teenagers because there are some things that might be a bit inappropriate for younger readers. If you like love stories, drama, and a little bit of humour then I would definitely suggest reading I am Daniel Tahi.
- Heidi is 13 years old and lives in Napier.