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  • topical and relevant

    “What do you think you’re going to change in Shelbourne on the weekend, Hesse? Nothing—that’s what. I wish you luck, I really do, but Hadron will crush your little group of activists and turn the whole town against you. You’re going to make enemies you don’t even know exist.” If Not Us is the fourth novel by award-winning Australian author, Mark Smith. Just like many surf-mad kids his age, seventeen-year-old Hesse Templeton is somewhat oblivious to anything that doesn’t immediately impact on his daily life, and that includes climate change. But recently, that’s what his attention has been drawn to: an essay for English class on the topic, then a gathering that his mother, Imogen hosts for the Shelbourne Action group, heightens his awareness to something virtually on his doorstep: the Hadron coal mine and power plant. When Shelbourne Action hears that Hadron is trying to quietly sell off one of the dirtiest and most polluting power stations in the country, they can’t ignore the opportunity to try to shut it down. But what can a small-town environment group do against a multi-national? The group’s high-flying Melbourne lawyer advocates getting the attention of banks and shareholders via social media. Hesse is rather alarmed to find he has agreed to speak at the coming town forum, but if it raises his standing in the eyes of recently arrived, pretty Dutch exchange student, Fenna De Vries, he’s willing to give it a go. They are all mindful, though, of Hadron’s status in the town: the parents of several of his classmates, including his best friend, are employed by the company, and Hadron has a long history of supporting the town’s many sports and social clubs and organisations. Smith’s depiction of a coastal Victorian town is perfect: the vibe of the place, the mindset of the townspeople, the dialogue, all feel so authentic, you’d think he lived in one 😉. There’s humour and drama, a bit of romance, and the social media event is an utter delight. It’s very clear that Mark Smith has an intimate knowledge of surfing from passages like: “The peak was a little to his left so he paddled into position and put in half a dozen strong strokes, feeling the familiar surge as the wave lifted under him. He popped to his feet, took the little drop, pulled a fast bottom turn then milked the wall until it closed out on the shore break. The ride lasted no more than ten seconds, but it was a release, something so instinctive he hardly realised he was doing it” Smith’s latest work is topical and relevant and it champions youth involvement in the important issues facing today’s society. It may be aimed at YA readers, but will appeal to a much wider range. This might be Mark Smith’s best yet! This unbiased review is from an uncorrected proof copy provided by NetGalley and Text Publishing.

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