Red Edge by Des Hunt
Twelve-year-old Cassi Whelan and her dad have just moved into a repaired house on the edge of Christchurch's red zone. Although Cassi was only four when earthquakes decimated Christchurch, her memories still haunt her.
An obsessive runner, she finds the wide-open spaces of the cleared red zone suit her perfectly. However, she becomes suspicious about strange comings and goings at the broken-down house next door. A chance meeting with a boy who lives on the other side of the house who is a tech geek leads to them setting up a surveillance system to investigate what's happening.
Des Hunt needs no introduction to New Zealand readers. His books all have strong nature, science and technology themes, with most set here in New Zealand and featuring our unique wildlife and landscapes.
What is interesting about Red Edge is that it is the first of Hunt's books with a female lead character. Cassi is a great character - she's open and free with her emotions, but strong and confident.
One tiny downside for me though was the inclusion of Cassi and Quinn's body types. For a middle-grade reader, aimed at upper primary school age, it felt a little unnecessary and cliche. There were just a few moments where it was part of the story, but it could have so easily been written around and that particular element left out. Our children have enough pressure and societal norms around their bodies forced on them as it is, it would have been nice to not be subjected to that, no matter how subtly, in Hunt's otherwise stellar book.
Red Edge is a gripping read and with Hunt's experience as a teacher of 40 years, he knows what will get children reading. Using New Zealand-specific settings, flora and fauna, makes it instantly relatable and relevant to our children.
Hunt's descriptions of the red zone in Christchurch, as well as the experiences of those that lived through the aftermath, are fantastic. He really taps into the feeling of displacement and upheaval that many went through and approaches it in an age-appropriate way.
As usual, Hunt manages to put across some deep values and life lessons, without making it seem like he is preaching.
Red Edge makes sure our younger readers appreciate the importance of conservation, honesty and respect, all wrapped up in a compelling eco-adventure mystery.
Reviewed by: Rebekah Lyell
Scholastic, RRP $19.99