Friday, July 25, 2014

Night vision by Ella West

Viola and her family live on a farm on the South Island of New Zealand, it is an isolated life for anyone, but even more so when you are living with a rare genetic disorder like Viola is.  Born with Xeroderma Pigmentosum, or XP for short, Viola must always be careful to avoid the sun and florescent lights because the light could literally end her life.  Viola knows that XP will eventually be a death sentence, most likely a painful death brought on by cancer from light exposure, but she has thoroughly adapted to a life in the dark.  While her father is asleep and her mother practices her music and putters around the house, Viola is away in the forestry block by their house.  With the special night vision goggles her parents Viola can see in the dark, and she sees a world that no one can see. 

One night the peace and quiet is shattered by the arrival of a man in a car, a man who puts a dead man in the drivers seat and sets the car alight before slipping and sliding through the forestry to bury a bag in the ground and escape in another vehicle.  Drawn on by her natural curiosity, Viola digs up the bag and discovers money, bags and bags of money.  At first Viola is not sure about the money, it has come from a criminal but does it really belong to him?  With the family farm in financial difficulty Viola decides to quietly slip her parents the money, but she is not as safe in her world as she thought, and when the bad guy figures out she saw something that night everyone is in danger - especially Viola.

Night vision is a quick read written by New Zealand author Ella West and is an interesting read that raises a lot of questions - would you report something suspicious if it meant you might be in danger?  Would you report finding lots of money if you knew it could really help your family?  Is stealing from a thief really a crime?  Viola is an interesting person to experience the world through, because she has lived such a sheltered life because of her illness, many of us take milestones for granted - learning to swim, our first visit to the beach, getting your first sunburn, and none of these have been possible for Viola.  What could have been a lame gimmick for a story (girl who is burned/poisoned by sunlight) instead makes for some intense and tense moments as Viola has to work through some of the issues associated with living with XP and the vulnerabilities that can bring.

I have to confess to being a little disappointed with the ending as it seemed a little too perfect, but on reflection the ending does fit the rest of the novel.  This is not an exceptionally difficult read, and really appreciate the fact that West has created a tense and atmospheric thriller that is available to teens of all ages and reading ability, opening the way for less confident or struggling teen readers to explore a new genre that may then lead them to harder reads.  I always get a little thrill from reading a book by a New Zealand author because we are a small country and not a lot of genuine New Zealand fiction is published for children and young people - often our authors write for a more general market, or write stories set in other countries so it was fabulous to read about a farm in Canterbury.

If you like this book then try:
  • Thieves by Ella West
  • I am not Esther by Fleur Beale
  • Thunder road by Ted Dawe
  • Nickel plated by Aric Davis
  • Dirt bomb by Fleur Beale
  • The kidnapping of Christina Lattimore by Joan Lowery Nixon
  • The half life of Ryan Davis by Melinda Syzmanik
  • Land of milk and honey by William Taylor
  • Genesis by Bernard Beckett
  • When we wake by Karen Healey
  • Thirteen reasons why by Jay Asher
  • See ya, Simon by David Hill
  • I swear by Lane Davis

Reviewed by Brilla

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