Ghosts of Parihaka by David Hair, Harper Collins, $24.99, ISBN 9781869509323, 4 April 2013
Ghosts of Parihaka is book 5 in David Hair’s popular Aotearoa series, and it’s the penultimate instalment. It’s nice to have some NZ YA fantastical fiction kicking around. Our hero, Matiu Douglas, is able to slip between two worlds – our modern day world of New Zealand and the parallel country of Aotearoa, a ghost world that combines elements of NZ history and myth. In Ghosts of Parihaka Matiu’s best friend Riki goes missing on a school trip to Parihaka – caught up in the Aotearoa-en version of events.
It’s a perfectly enjoyable read with a few points of detraction but I’d still be recommending this to most Kiwi kids and teens. Leaving aside questions of cultural appropriation, there’s still a bit of a thrill in seeing Maori and Pakeha myths and legends combined in a skilful way.
Detractions first: it suffers a bit from penultimate curse, in that there are interesting storylines that are started or advanced in Ghosts of Parihaka but not wrapped up, and that makes it not quite as satisfying a read as it could be. There’s a fine line between teasing and irritating and Hair doesn’t always get it right.
But my biggest gripe would have to be the female characters. I think this is a book designed to attract boys but I do wish it had a female character who stands on her own, rather than solely in relation to the males.
Ultimately though I think Hair is doing a great job of exploring how two separate cultural identities can be combined into one national identity through shared history and knowledge.
Plus the kids will like it.