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Description - If Not Us by Mark Smith

He'd always accepted the mine and power station were part of Shelbourne. On still nights, the thrum of the turbines echoed down the valley and melded with the sound of the ocean until you couldn't tell them apart.

Hesse lives a small coastal town, where a coalmine and power station are a part of the scenery, and a part of the ever-growing problem of climate change. His mum is a member of a local environmental group campaigning to close the mine and shut down the power station. It's a no-brainer, of course, but Hesse is more interested in surfing-and in Fenna, the new exchange student from the Netherlands.

But when someone seems to be trying to derail the campaign, and his friends' families face losing their jobs, Hesse begins to realise that things are complex.

Even though he's reluctant to step into the spotlight, with Fenna's encouragement he decides it's time to make a stand. Because some things are too important to leave to everyone else. And even one small, nervous voice can make a difference.

When Hesse agrees to speak at a protest meeting he has no idea of the storm he is about to unleash.

If Not Us is Mark Smith's first standalone YA novel following his hugely successful Winter trilogy. It's another great story with an engaging and relatable protagonist, as well as an impassioned plea for climate-change action that will inspire and empower readers of all ages.

Buy If Not Us by Mark Smith from Australia's Online Independent Bookstore, Boomerang Books.

Book Details

ISBN: 9781922330796
Format: Paperback / softback
(234mm x 153mm x 20mm)
Pages: 272
Imprint: The Text Publishing Company
Publisher: Text Publishing
Publish Date: 28-Sep-2021
Country of Publication: Australia

Book Reviews - If Not Us by Mark Smith

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Book Review: If Not Us by Mark Smith - Reviewed by (29 Oct 2021)

5 stars “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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