Sunday, 8 March 2015

A Dolphin for Naia

A Dolphin for Naia by Northern Beach Writers’ Group
PB RRP $15.99
ISBN 978-0-9942006-1-7
Reviewed by Francine Sculli

When a book conjures multiple story questions and powerful themes that leave you yearning for the answers in the first few pages, you know that you are in for an absorbing read -- which is exactly how A Dolphin for Naia starts.

Within moments of opening this novella, I was chasing the answers to the story questions raised: What happened to Naia? Where are Grams and Mase going? Who is the Parliament? Why have this family separated and why is Mase so angry with his parents? These questions create a flawless narrative tension that drive through the book like an unrelenting heartbeat.

We travel right by our thirteen-year-old protagonist Mase’s side, on a mysterious and hair-raising adventure as he searches for some of these answers himself. A year after losing his little sister Naia, we are thrown head first into the family dynamics as Mase and his Grams take on the important job of decoding his parent’s cryptic messages and driving a truck across New South Wales to deliver his parent’s very important invention to them in Manly; a dolphin-looking robotic that has seemingly made Mase’s life hell for the past year.

But as Mase and his Gram zoom down the highway – escaping waiters, receiving text messages from the robotic dolphin, recruiting the services of old circus folk, breaking down and calling on “the parliament” for an emergency escape –  the answers start to present themselves to Mase and the very thing he once thought was the reason for his family splitting apart quickly becomes the thing that brings them back together. The dolphin holds a lot more importance than Mase could ever have imagined and when he is finally reunited with his parents at Manly Beach, he discovers that they too have been coming to grips with the death of Naia and fighting for the very thing Mase wished for – his sister to be with them.

A Dolphin for Naia is more than just a thrill-a-minute. It’s a touching tale of the love, family, memory and loss and all the tiny things that connect us. The Northern Beach Writers Group has outdone itself for their second co-written and co-illustrated teenage novella, and it is hardly surprising that this book has taken out the 2014 WABIAD prize for ‘Best Book.

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