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Viola Vincent Reporting: Troubled Water by Anna Kenna

Updated: Feb 5, 2021

A tropical cyclone is just one of the challenges Caitlin faces on her summer holidays. Her story about a polluted river causes a storm of another kind that stirs up community feelings that run as deep as the river itself.

Troubled Water is the third in the Viola Vincent series; a story about a young girl - Caitlin Nove - who moonlights as an investigative journalist known as Viola Vincent.

Written by former television journalist Anna Kenna, this story depicts a coastal settlement under threat from increasingly violent storms and rising seas.

I had never heard of this series prior to reading this book and I have absolutely been missing out.

This book is a standalone story, but if you're also new to Viola Vincent's adventures, you'll want to hunt out the other two stories immediately.

Kenna has created a strong and believable heroine in her character of Caitlin. The young girl has fire and passion, while also acknowledging and working on her faults.

As a fellow journalist, I loved that narrative arc even if it wasn't quite my experience (The Courier, the fictional newspaper in the story, seems to have unlimited financial means and connections in order to get the scoop!). But, younger readers will be inspired by the idea to use their strengths to make a stand for what they believe in. For aspiring journalists, or old hands like myself, Caitlin's story will remind us of the power of the pen and why the fourth estate is a vital component of society.

The story of the river is relevant, important, and will strike a chord with any reader. During Caitlin's investigation into the polluted river, she meets Anahera, a young Māori woman who says her iwi is fed up with trying to get the authorities to fix the river.

Caitlin wants to expose the injustice, but her attempts backfire.

"This is a story about two young women with very different perspectives who share a common goal to save a dying river. The quest tests their friendship and ultimately requires Caitlin to open her mind and embrace a different world view," Kenna says.

Mātauranga Māori is a focus-point for this story, and Caitlin both learns about and embraces the concept of kaitiakitanga or guardianship.

Kenna writes a beautiful scene of a hui in a marae. While it's a teeny bit cliche, it captured the mana, passion and feeling that we so often witness within that space. The story could never have authentically been set in New Zealand without including mātauranga Māori. I am grateful Kenna understood that, and that this aspect wasn't tokenistic or added as an afterthought. It's woven into the story respectfully and authentically. Like Shilo Kino's The Pōrangi Boy or Tania Roxborogh's Charlie Tangaroa, I'm thrilled to see more and more books like this be published for our children to see, to hear, and to read themselves and their world on the page.

Kenna conveys perfectly that caring for the land and water is a responsibility that both past and future generations need to carry. This story encourages our younger generation to think critically about current events and the environment and to expand their understanding.

Kenna, and her wonderful character Caitlin, show our young people that collectively we can rewrite the script of their future.

Reviewer: Rebekah Lyell

The Copy Press, RRP $25


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