Into the River
Booklist Reviews 2016 May #1
Te Arepa grew up in a small New Zealand village, enraptured by tales of his Maori ancestors. When he gets a scholarship to attend tony Barwell's, a prestigious all-boys boarding school, he is looking forward to the academic glory, but the hurdles, especially racism, are significant. He is ultimately a success, but he begins to feel burdened by his Maori identity and bored by village life. By the novel's end, Te Arepa seems almost indistinguishable from his white peers, and though there's a hint he has become disenchanted by Barwell's, his future is unclear. Though it's unfortunate that most of the girls in Dawe's novel are fairly one-dimensional, Te Arepa, who cycles through a believable variety of identities and struggles, is beautifully vivid. The compassionate depiction of the teen's choices, both good and bad, as well as the candid portrayal of life at an all-boys school, packed as it is with drugs, drinking, sex, and violent bullying, will give this significant appeal for fans of character-driven novels where the conclusions aren't very rosy, let alone clearly definitive. Copyright 2014 Booklist Reviews.
Horn Book Guide Reviews 2017 Spring
Dawe's uncensored portrait of a Maori boy attending a New Zealand boarding school is riveting in its honesty and more disturbing than The Chocolate War. Te Arepa is open to new experiences, hardworking, sexually active, and by turns willing to comply with bullies to survive and unwilling to sacrifice his identity. The world he navigates is racist, cruel, and unjust; no one survives unscathed. Copyright 2017 Horn Book Guide Reviews.
PW Reviews 2016 March #2
In a book briefly banned in the author's native New Zealand, Dawe revisits a character from his novel Thunder Road, this time as an adolescent. Te Arepa is a 13-year-old from Whareiti, a Maori village. Te Arepa sees himself in his adventuring ancestor, Diego Santos, whose legend permeates the village. After being accepted to Barwell's Collegiate, a posh boarding school in Auckland, Te Arepa becomes Devon, disguising his name and Maori heritage to escape torment by senior boys. With friends Mitch and Steph, Devon experiences a world ripe with possibilities and the pressures of academic excellence. But his relationship with Steph brings its own set of problems in the form of stealing, drugs, and sex, including exploitation at the hands of a teacher. Dawe explores the inner sanctum of boarding schools and bullies in the morally confused Devon, who gravitates to choices that derail his life. While the descriptive scenes feel prolonged and the female characters are one-dimensional, Dawe's novel cleverly leaves the ending unresolved, emphasizing the complications of culture, loyalty, and consequences when "there is freedom and then there is everything else." Ages 13–up. (June)[Page ]. Copyright 2016 PWxyz LLC