WEST, Ella Night Vision Allen & Unwin, 2014 180pp A$14.99 NZ$18.99 pbk ISBN 9781743317662 SCIS 1653945
There is little doubt that the pace of this novel and the thriller elements will keep many young readers enthralled. However, there is more to it than these features. It is written in the first person by the main character Viola, who has a rare and deadly disease, Xerodermia Pigmentosum, commonly abbreviated to XP with sufferers referred to as moon kids. As a consequence, any exposure to sunlight or ultra violet light can result in life threatening problems. Viola functions as a nocturnal being, sleeping during the day and only venturing out at night, with her night vision goggles.
The use of first person enables insight into the unquestioning ways in which she thinks and acts and will give rise to a number of moral dilemmas for the perceptive reader. Also, within her narrative she often provides almost forensic and didactic detail about particular topics, from the structure of a symphony orchestra to the financial details of a mortgage as it applies to farm life or the day to day work on a sheep farm. Overall, it is a mixed bag of literary elements and readers’ engagement will depend on the degree of affinity they have with Viola, the predicaments that constantly face her, and the ways in which she deals with them. Suitable for readers 10-14.
reviewed by Sue Clancy