Snakes and Ladders

It’s festival week at the New Zealand Post Children’s Book Aawards? Have you checked out the events happening near you ?
And it’s exactly one week to the big awards ceremony in Christchurch: Monday 24th. Excited yet?
It’s also Young Adult week on Green Bay writers, where we will review all the finalists in the Young Adult category.
Snakes and Ladders is up first:

Snakes and Ladders by Mary-Anne Scott


reviewed by Doris Evans, Green Bay Creative Writers

Finn Fletcher, the hero of the book, is a typical sixteen-year-old, living in a small coastal town in New Zealand with his mother Anne. He loves to hang out with his mates, enjoys cars, parties and is attracted to Alison, a girl his age.

His father Duggie lives separated from him and Anne. He has a small run down bach in the same village and appears to be lost in a world of drugs and music. He is a drummer. Finn and Duggie might not have the perfect relationship, but he seems to love his son dearly. Although in the village lives Finn’s granddad, who owns an orchard. Every now and then Finn works for him.

His grandmother ,Valerie, is the driving force behind the idea to ‘broaden his horizon’ by sending him to an exclusive boarding school in Auckland. First, Finn is strictly against this. He feels at home with his mates and Alison. Then, during an alcohol-filled party night, something terrible happens. It looks like Finn’s dad has to go to prison. Finn, who is completely devastated by the events, changes his mind and agrees to go to Auckland.

Settling into such a different lifestyle is not easy for Finn. He gets into contact with a bunch of new friends such as Andy and Hobbsie, but also with bully Edward, who seems to know a lot about his fellow students and likes to blackmail them. Finn stands his ground and fights back, when Edward threatens to reveal Duggie’s ordeal. He also fights for Mia, a beautiful rich girl, who plays in the same symphonic band. The more he gets involved into the rich people’s life, the less he wants to be reminded of where he comes from.

The turning point, however, is an illicit after-ball party, where something goes terribly wrong. In the aftermath Finn realizes that a lot in his life also went wrong lately. Together with his new mate Andy, he travels to his hometown in the holidays. His father seems to be a changed man, but will this all help Finn to get his life together?

I might not exactly be the target group of this novel, but I have a teenage son, so it was a delight to indulge into the world of the sixteen-year-olds. Mainly the book is a ‘coming of age’-story. It is about the importance of family. Finn’s immediate family, whether they were together or separated, always supported him despite his somewhat rude teenager behaviour. It is about love: Alison and Mia, the down-to-earth girl from home and the super-rich gorgeous girl from another world. Finn is attracted to both. It is about sportsmanship: Playing rugby helps to let off steam and team up.

“Snakes and Ladders’, quoted by wise Grandma Valerie, is about the ups and downs in real life. It is written in an entertaining, easy understandable style. I think it is a good read for students as it relates to their language and their problems.

Mary-anne Scott (writer)

Born in Hastings into a family of nine children, Mary-anne Scott grew up around books and music. Aside from writing, she sings and plays guitar, performing at wineries and weddings around Hawke’s Bay. She also plays cello and teaches music to young students. Mary-anne’s mother, Joy Watson, authored the popular Grandpa’s Slippers series.

Mary-anne is married to Paul and lives in Havelock North. The couple have four grown-up sons. The experiences, both good and bad, of her sons and their friends have been great fodder for her writing.


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