‘Bugs’ by Whiti Hereaka

reviewed by Melanie Wittwer

 Bugs, as in Bunny, is a 16-year-old girl living in Taupo with her mother. Bugs is conflicted like any 16-year-old. She wants more for herself than her mother’s dead-end job. But she is at a disadvantage as a girl and a Maori in a town that has little to offer. Bugs’ friend Jez is a source of calm in her life, until new girl Stone Cold arrives on the scene. Stone Cold seems to have it all but appreciate nothing – a juxtaposition to Bugs’ modest lifestyle with her hard-working mother and Jez’s all out poverty and struggle with his mother’s ever changing no-good boyfriends. There is a lot of tension in these friendships, as their teenage decision making leads them all onto different paths.

Bugs is a no-nonsense story, which brilliantly toys with the reader’s expectations. The book deals with issues a 16-year-old would encounter in real life and therefore calls for a certain maturity in the reader. Bugs, as a narrator, relates her struggles, her puzzlement at life with refreshing honesty. Nothing is glossed over; we are in Bugs‘ head. This is exactly which makes this book such a compelling read: the absence of moral finger wagging. It is what it is. And what it is, is good.

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