cover image If Not Us

If Not Us

Mark Smith. Text, $13.95 paper (272p) ISBN 978-1-922330-79-6

Australian surfer Hesse Templeton, 17, takes his first hesitant steps into environmental activism in this optimistic call to action by Smith (the Winter trilogy). Hesse lives a quiet life in fictional Australian town Shelbourne on Victoria’s west coast; he works at a surf shop and harbors a crush on mercurial Dutch exchange student Fenna De Vries. But after Hesse’s activist mother receives insider data suggesting that Hadron, the company behind a local coal-fired power plant, under-reports its sulfur dioxide emissions, she becomes embroiled in efforts to shut the company down. The campaign puts the family at odds with their neighbors, who depend on Hadron for work, and leads to Hesse facing violent intimidation, as when he’s threatened at gunpoint by a man opposing his mother’s ideals. As Hesse learns more about the company’s effect on the environment, including his beloved ocean, he nervously begins speaking out at environmentalist rallies. Hesse and Fenna’s romance contributes to uneven pacing and sometimes detracts from the novel’s overarching messaging. Nevertheless, rhythmic, Aussie-slang-laden dialogue provides levity, while Hadron’s sinister corporate subterfuge imbues the narrative with tension. Main characters present as white. Ages 12–up. (Oct.)