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Karen Healey

Allen & Unwin (2011)

ISBN: 978-1-74175-881-8

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.

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Karen Healey

Allen and Unwin

ISBN: 9781741758818

Reviewed by Tansy Rayner Roberts

Guardian of the Dead, by Karen Healey, was one of the most interesting YA debut novels last year, with its mixture of serial killer horror and Maori mythology, featuring contemporary New Zealand teenagers with both snark and substance. I was delighted to receive an early copy of Karen Healey’s follow up novel, The Shattering – so much so that I took it as my inflight entertainment for the Aurealis Awards weekend, at which Guardian of the Dead ended up winning Best Young Adult Novel!

Set in an idyllic New Zealand tourist town, this book has a very simple premise at the heart of it – teenagers uncovering supernatural wrongdoings – but it becomes something far more crunchy and intriguing thanks to the complex, diverse protagonists and Healey’s sensitive handling of some pretty major issues, including teen suicide, grief response, mental health, bullying and coming out to your parents. The absolute heart of the novel is the friendship between the three main characters, who all bond over the shared grief of losing an elder brother to suicide, and decide to investigate whether there is a more sinister reason behind their loss. I loved each of these characters deeply and enjoyed how flawed they are as well as how strong. I also adored the fact that, while there is romance here, the novel took a very pragmatic attitude towards teenage love stories, and that the central triad (two girls and a boy) was about as far from a love triangle as it is possible to get.

Original, fast paced and richly detailed, The Shattering is a powerful second novel from a writer whose narrative choices are never dull.

Karen Healey

Allen and Unwin (2010)

ISBN: 9781741758801

Reviewed by Tansy Rayner Robers, May 2010

I’ve been following Healey’s blog for the last couple of months, and was particularly caught by her post about the importance of New Zealand as the setting of her debut novel, Guardian of the Dead. The post came out of her frustration that overseas readers were referring to her and her book as Australian.

I read the book with this in mind, and I have to say that my first reaction was one big ‘what are you people, high?’ I can see why Healey was so outraged, as the book is not just rich in detail about its New Zealand setting, but the plot itself turns on the mythology and experience of that country.

The second thing that occurred to me was… wow. I really know almost nothing about New Zealand. And I mean nothing. Guardian of the Dead paints such a detailed picture of New Zealand culture, mythology and how they blend into the lives of modern New Zealanders, and… I’ve never seen this before. My entire pop culture experience of New Zealand consists of Hercules, Xena, Lord of the Rings, a couple of Margaret Mahy novels and that Worzel Gummidge series. I can’t help feeling deeply ashamed that this is a country so very close to my own, with so many overlapping ties, and I’ll bet there aren’t many 32 year old New Zealanders who don’t have a far more comprehensive understanding of Australia, our popular culture, and what it might be like to live here.

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