Review Blog

Jul 30 2015

New Boy by Nick Earls

cover image

Puffin Books, 2015. ISBN 9780143308393
(Age: 10+) Nick Earls is a popular award-winning author whose recent novel New Boy tells the story of Herschelle, a South African boy of Dutch ancestry. Upon arriving in Australia with his family, Herschelle unexpectedly discovers he will 'have to confront racism, bullying and his own past before Australia can feel like home . . . '
A difficult task, especially as school bully Lachlan is on his case making fun of Herschelle's name and accent. Then Herschelle's own opinion that the school staff made a monumental mistake appointing Max the nerd as his official buddy, isn't helping either. It seems for Herschelle, any visions he once had of teaming up with the cool kids at his new school are evaporating fast. Not a good start. But undeterred, he shares his knowledge of the Australian vernacular, all of which he has thoroughly researched on the internet even before his arrival in Australia, but the whole experience goes awry following a red-faced incident in the classroom. Assimilation into life at One Mile Creek seems foiled, and he really misses his friend Richard Frost back in South Africa. All is not lost however. Things look up when Herschelle and Max discover their common love of sport, and their friendship begins to flourish. However, even this friendship will be tested after the barbeque. With consequences.
The start to Herschelle's new life in Australia is a little rocky, but one cannot help liking this boy from South Africa who faces the challenges of his new country with his integrity and sense of humour intact. After reading New Boy, I am left with the feeling that Herschelle will do just fine.
With humour, Nick Earls gently teases out many fundamental issues faced by anyone new in a new environment: outward appearances may be similar, but the shock of discovering a language, accent and culture different from their own experience can leave many children unprepared. Through his character Herschelle, Earls shows it is possible to rise above the difficulties, to become a bridge between the old and the new. Earls has written this story sensitively, and his personal understanding of the trials faced by many a newbie at a new school, or indeed any new situation, gives his narrative gravitas. New Boy will appeal to a young teenage market.
Colleen Tuovinen

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