Saving Thanehaven by Catherine Jinks

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Allen and Unwin, 2014. ISBN 9781743317747.
(Age: Early secondary) Well recommended. This is a creatively constructed, modern tale appealing to young readers who are familiar with the workings of a computer but whose main characters belong to a medieval world. Noble is the main character in a computer game. He lives in a fantasy computer programme from long ago, where swords smote characters. He sets out to save the Princes Lorellina and meets Rufus, who belongs to the modern computer time and who says, 'I'm not asking you to surrender. I'm asking you to think.' p5. This is the essence of the book. The author challenges the reader to question the computer games, the way they unfold and where the power lies. Noble says,' It doesn't have to be tyranny or anarchy. You can follow rules and still think for yourself' p278. Noble has come a long way from his beginnings! It's a very cleverly contrived novel, attempting to challenge young readers about their game choices.
Catherine Jinks writes persuasively, using humour which the reader understands, while developing strong characters. The cover imparts a mysterious feeling suggesting a quest.
The Cover Story in The Weekend Australian dated September 13-14 by Rosemary Neill, while ostensibly discussing teen films refers to these films as 'going dystopic'. They are 'high-concept tales set in quasi-totalitarian societies and featuring teenagers fighting each other to the death'. This book belongs to this genre. John Marsden's Tomorrow series began this trend. David Kelly, (in this article) says 'dystopias reflect 'our anxieties of where we are heading and what's to come - a grim prospect these days, with our customary apprehensions ratcheted up by the 24-hour news cycle and the public appetite for stories of political, social or personal (often celebrity) crisis'. This article is relevant, topical and well worth reading.
Sue Nosworthy