Firstly, let me
say that it’s wonderful to have a story that inhabits our Great Ocean Road
wilderness in the context of a gripping novel. Set in the hinterland behind
Apollo Bay, this narrative is one that stays with the reader long after the
book is closed.
We follow a
group of five year 9 students as they embark on a ‘dropping’ – their Dutch
teacher’s idea of a resilience and independence building exercise, which is
really just a very long walk back to school, through dense bushland. In the
teacher has also chosen the night of a full moon for the walk. And even more
luckily, the massive storm that’s brewing will appear well after the kids are
all safely back at school drinking hot chocolate in front of the fire. Or will
Five head into
the forest, but will all five make it out?
A dramatic and
fitting by-line – this is indeed an unputdownable book. Set over a 24 hour
period, the suspense is masterfully built and the character behaviours are
deftly explored. With intricate and rather interesting backstories, their
actions are not always explained but are sometimes simply left for the reader
to ponder over. Some of these character traits are resolved through the
narrative and some are not, which is exactly as it should be.
There’s something in this book for everyone: having two mums, living with
autism, parents not being what they seem, developing compassion, having to
prove yourself, social isolation, self-soothing, infatuation, self-loathing. There
are characters to relate to, characters to dislike and rail against, situations
to make your toes curl and discoveries that cause ‘ahas’ by the truckload.
The story contains explorations of the psyche as it delves into both the best
and worst of human nature. It also pops into the narrative a 5-year-old child
who’s lost in the forest overnight, a massive storm complete with lightning strike
and a Ute full of drunken hoodlums with rifles. It’s a heady mix.
and incidents are believable enough as we roll from one conundrum into the next.
The structuring of the story is clever and supports the deliberate, slow reveal
of hair-raising plot-lines, character surprises and deeper truths.
It’s not the
traditional walk in the park, but it’s definitely a very satisfying afternoon of
Title: A Walk In The Dark
Author: Jane Godwin
Publisher: Lothian, $16.99
Publication Date: August 2022
For ages: 9 – 11
Type: Junior Fiction / Middle Grade Fiction