Walker Books Australia
Imprint:Walker Books Australia
New Zealand RRP:$21.99
It is clear to see why Louise Bassett‘s debut novel was short-listed for the Ampersand Prize. It is a tense and gripping mystery/thriller that will hook readers in from the first page. Drawing on her real-life experience working in the justice system, particularly for women and international aid in Papua New Guinea, Cambodia and Vietnam, Louise has crafted a taut psychological thriller that explores the resilience and rebelliousness of young women, the conflicting emotions and frustrations of teens, friendships, and the dirty underbelly of human trafficking.
Melati Nelson, having won a scholarship to an elite school is striving to bury her ‘bad girl’ history but a chance encounter in the school counsellor’s office has her discovering, and subsequently stealing, a diary. The journal belongs to Devi, a young Indonesian girl, and as Mel begins to unravel the translation and piece together the story, she realises that Devi has been kidnapped and forced into sex work. Mel’s school trip to Indonesia becomes far more than a return to her early childhood when she and her parents lived in that country. It becomes a race against the clock to follow the scant clues and rescue Devi. At the same time, she finds herself up against the class bully which triggers her own defiant behaviours and leaves her open to finding herself to landing in a mess of her own making. Her burgeoning friendship with Melbourne boy, Michael, is a saving grace of the trip and he becomes her willing co-investigator, as determined as she is to uncover the truth and help Devi before it’s too late.
This is truly a high intensity page-turner which I couldn’t put down. The combination of the well-written and authentic characters, and the rise and fall of their interactions, along with awfulness of the human trafficking trade is the stuff that makes for completely compelling reading. The themes of moral responsibility, right and wrong, privilege and its abuse, exploitation are relevant and pertinent in today’s global society and would provide much fodder for rich discussion. I can easily see this being an engaging, powerful and fertile class novel (put it in the hands of your English faculty!).
Your readers from around 13 years upwards, particularly those who thrive on the thriller/mysteries/crime genres, will eat this up and be hungry for more. I highly recommend it to you for your discerning secondary readers. Read an interview with Louise.