Allen and Unwin, $19.00,
Lyla is a book written in raw truth. The story begins in a world of homework and the normal everyday life of a young schoolgirl named Lyla. She attends Avonside Girls’ High School and lives happily in the city of Christchurch. But then disaster strikes: an earthquake shakes the lives of every Christchurch citizen, turning us upside down into chaos. This book reveals the truth of the February Christchurch earthquake, the loss people faced, and the terrible things we saw. It brings a reader out of their world of media and newspapers and reveals the personal terrors one faced in that horrific time.
At first, on beginning the story, I did not think I would enjoy it, as, after personally experiencing the earthquake, I’ve had enough of people talking and writing about it. Also, as I attend Avonside Girls’ High School, it felt strange to read about my own school and hear about streets that I pass every day surrounding the protagonist’s life. Yet, as I read on, these relations to my life made me utterly fascinated by this book: it was almost as if someone had recorded my life throughout the quakes and documented it. Fleur Beale portrayed the feelings of terror and insecurity present in people during the Christchurch earthquakes in perfect descriptions. This book was written in pure truth and reality; not one sentence was out of place or gives a false description. Her imagery and the events that were described caused very strong emotions, bringing me, a person who experienced the quakes, back to those very real, terrifying times. This book is not just a reminder of the quake, but a reminder of the aftermaths: the powerless sockets, empty water pipes, cracked and rippled streets, and collapsing buildings. She uses expressions such as “When the world around us shook itself to bits”, which is no exaggeration, to perfectly portray the experience.
This book was made even more personal as the main character is close in age to me. She’s beginning her second year of high school, and her priorities in life are similar to mine a couple of years ago. As I read, I realised how much the earthquake matured us children, forcing us to step up and lead. We had no choice but to stay strong and encourage others along. Lyla was only a 14-year-old, yet she stepped up to the role of keeping her family safe and provided for. This showed the strength and resilience of not only her, but of many other children who withstood the earthquake.
This would not be a book I would go out of my way to read, as it feels much too personal for me. Not only that Lyla attended my school and lived in a similar place to me, but that she went through almost exactly the same thing I and many other young teens did at the time. Yet, for someone who is curious to understand the Christchurch earthquake, this book is perfect: there is no sophisticated speech or brushing over the details to make it more interesting. It’s just pure truth. I cannot personally rate this book, as my opinion on it is very biased, but I do believe the story is very educational to others who wish to understand the experience of the 2011 Christchurch city earthquake.
Aleksia Drain is 16 years old and from Avonside Girls’ High School in Christchurch. For more reviews from young readers, go to: www.hookedonbooks.org.nz.