Graduating from high school is always a fraught time. You’re taking your first steps out into the real world, trying to figure out where you want to go and what you want to do. It’s especially difficult for Jono, the protagonist in Graham Akhurst’s new novel Borderland. He’s not sure where he’s going, and he’s not sure where he’s coming from, either.
Jono is a city-born Indigenous teenager, but he and his mother have long since lost their connection with Country and community. Jono tries his best to shake off lingering questions about his heritage by throwing himself head-first into creative arts college. He’s quickly “discovered”, and shoved in front of the camera to film a “documentary” film (i.e. propaganda) about a mining project planned for sacred land. Every step he takes, Jono is haunted – and not in the metaphorical sense.
Borderland is an intense speculative eco-horror YA novel. It felt oddly dissonant to me in that the content is fairly mature, but the language/prose skews a little young. The pacing is also a bit odd; it has a slow build, then a rapid-fire resolution.
As for the story itself, I really liked how Akhurst depicted differences and division within the First Nations community. It’s a (very timely) reminder that the Indigenous population is not a monolith, and there’s no unanimity about issues that impact them. Also, the “monsters” of Borderland are pure nightmare fuel, all the scarier for the fact that Jono (and, therefore, the reader) can’t trust his perceptions of them.
Borderland is an interesting debut, and a contribution to the Australian gothic that will surely fuel a lot of conversations and commentary. Many thanks to UWAP for sending me a copy for review.
Buy Borderland on Booktopia here. (affiliate link)