I’ll be honest – I don’t much enjoy reading books in PDF format. I spend most of my working day at the computer – sitting at the darn thing to read a book seems a bit too much like a busman’s holiday. So when Summer of Dreaming popped up on the computer, I wasn’t exactly rubbing my hands with glee at the prospect of reading it. Deciding just to give the first chapter a go before going off to bed, seemed a sensible option, however…
I was still sitting at the computer screen a couple of hours later, absolutely hooked. No way was I going anywhere until I’d finished this delightful YA adventure novel set in New Zealand.
Thirteen-year-old Jo’s best friend is Rangi Jackson, a Maori boy from the neighbouring farm – which is a big problem for her grandmother and Rangi’s great-grandfather, who hate their friendship. When questioned about their hostility, they are both very tight-lipped – but mention a feud stretching back in time. Up to this point, it hasn’t been an issue, but when ill health forces Grandmother to convalesce during the summer at their farm and Jo finds herself sneaking off to meet up with Rangi, the pair decide to get to the bottom of this mysterious incident that has caused such enmity between their families…
Their investigation into their family histories is interspersed with daily events on the isolated sheep farm. McConchie’s fluid prose deftly draws us into this rural corner of New Zealand, giving us a taste of a very different lifestyle, without letting the pace or tension slacken one jot. Told in first person through Jo’s viewpoint, one of the main strengths of this book is the spot-on characterisation of the main protagonist, who jumped off the pages and grabbed my attention from the first chapter and didn’t let go until I’d finished the book. While she ensures that there is nothing too graphic, given the target readership’s age-group, McConchie isn’t afraid to confront her audience with a brutal scenario that didn’t end ‘happily ever after’ for those caught up in it.
Do I have any niggles? Well, I’m not too sure about the title. It makes the book sound less adventurous and action-packed than it is. It would be a crying shame if young readers didn’t pick it up because the title didn’t appeal.
All in all, Summer of Dreaming is a thoroughly accomplished, entertaining read that thoroughly deserves winning the 2011 Sir Julius Vogel Award for Best Young Adult Novel.