Allen & Unwin (2011)
Reviewed by Tehani Wessely
When three teenagers discover a pattern of suicides among older brothers who visit the perfect tourist town of Summerton, they begin to investigate the possibility of a serial killer. But Janna, Sione and Keri uncover far more than they could have imagined on their quest for the truth, with high stakes meaning their own lives are now at risk. Can they save the next victim, or even themselves?
Healey made a stunning debut last year with Guardian of the Dead, a startling New Zealand-set story with sinister undertones. In The Shattering, she again brings New Zealand to life, as the country takes on its own role in the story. The setting is integral to the work, as much as the characters, providing a meaningful backdrop to the cast and the storyline. I really enjoyed the characterisations of Janna, Keri and Sione, who were three dimensional and well-rounded. There’s something very real about them, and I’m sure most readers will find something about at least one of the three to identify with.
What seems to be a relatively straightforward “teen detective” mystery in the early chapters soon takes on an intriguing overlay which was quite unusual. I’m not sure how readers expecting the traditional mystery will take the book but as a speculative fiction fan, I thought it was cleverly done. Healey uses enough realism in her work to encourage belief, and the story carries a strong moral theme as well. I’m not sure the final pages work to the story’s best advantage, but for the target young adult audience, they are a useful, and possibly even necessary, adjunct.
Healey has followed her successful debut with another excellent YA novel, one that again blends a wonderfully realised New Zealand setting with engaging characters and a fascinating story. Highly recommended and highly enjoyable!