In Our Own Backyard – Anne Kayes (Bateman, $21.99)
reviewed by Louise Ward
This is a young adult novel with lots of relatable themes, particularly as we're going through this resurgence of Covid.
A grown up lady, Liza, is going through Lockdown #1 in March 2020 — she's a journalist and has lost her job as many did when many of the New Zealand magazines failed.
Liza is moping, unsure of her purpose, when one of her children asks her if she went through anything as weird and historic as this lockdown when she was their age. And yes she did – the Springbok tour, apartheid South Africa sending their team to play the All Blacks, even though the United Nations called for a boycott, and the Gleneagles Agreement said apartheid in sport was an abomination.
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We go back with Liza to 1981 when she's 15. Her best friend is Rewi, and his mum is a photographer, chronicling the protests against the Springbok tour. The police are watching their house and Rewi gets questioned by them every day — the same questions, over and over.
Liza's family are all against the tour and want to join in the protests, but her brother Pete plays rugby at school and doesn't want to get on the wrong side of his team-mates who are saying "it's just a game". This becomes more tense as the book progresses and reflects how families became divided on the issue.
The story centres around the protests, but there's much more going on here. Racism, the Dawn Raids, and Liza's first love, Harry. All goes well for a while, but Harry doesn't like Liza hanging around with Rewi and there are instances where Liza knows Harry is being unreasonable and controlling but he manages to convince her she's done something wrong. The term gaslighting is used for this behaviour now, and the author's investigation into it is sensitive and non-judgmental.
There's a lot to get fired up about in In Our Own Backyard — a healthy dose of romance, friendship and family issues. It's got all the great young adult novel ingredients (making it a good old adult read too!) and it really works.