Peace and hope from inner turmoil, Gemma Lovewell
August 16, 2021
The blurb on the back of the book Just Remember by Donna Blaber intrigued me, as it pointed to many different possible storylines: death of a parent, making new friends, magic, and mermaids… where was this story going?
The author quickly gives us the background of main character Em, who is coming to terms with the loss of her father in an accident. With her mother unable to cope, Em is forced to move, to live with her Nana in a quiet town in Northland. Em manages to make new friends, but finds she is also drawn to the Mermaid Pools – a place her dad used to tell her stories about. After believing for so long that she was responsible for her father’s death, could this special place hold the key to finding a connection that would help Em find peace?
If you are lucky enough to have visited the Mermaid Pools, as I have, you will understand that they do feel magical. I can definitely picture sitting, like Em does, under a tree, looking at the pools, and ‘just remembering.’ It is easy to imagine mermaids and magical stones in this place, and the author describes the area’s ‘bushy headland’ and ‘abundance of super white sand’ exactly as it is. She also brings the reality of the vulnerability of the area into the story, with references throughout the book to the sign that tells visitors to keep out. This is based on a rāhui that was placed on the area, due to the damage of too many visitors: ‘sunscreen, urine and rubbish were wrecking the environment.’ I think it was very clever to weave reality into what is essentially a fantasy story.
The mermaid in this story brings just enough mystic and magic to keep the reader intrigued, while the very real characters make it easy to relate to. Em’s situation of having to face adversity, make new friends, and make peace with her own inner turmoil is something many readers will be able to relate to, in their own way. I really liked the uniquely New Zealand feel of the book, and the natural incorporation of Māori terms within the story (there is also a glossary of unfamiliar terms to help readers).
I think the book packs a lot into a small package; at around 100 pages it is relatively short, yet still covers the highs and lows of a good story that allow us readers to connect with Em and share her journey. The ending is both satisfying and heart warming and the story reminds us of the value of hope.
I recommend Just Remember for anyone looking for a light, yet meaningful read. You don’t need to be a fan of mermaids or fantasy to enjoy this story; it is suitable for any reader above 10, and I think readers of all ages would appreciate its positive messages.
– Gemma is 15 and lives in Masterton.