11 April 2010

Review: TAROKO GORGE, Jacob Ritari

I read this as an ebook version of an ARC on my Kindle through NetGalley courtesy the publisher Unbridled Books. Due to be publlished 6 July 2010, and available for pre-order from Amazon.
ISBN 9781936071654

A "rites of passage" school trip for a group of Japanese graduating Junior High school students turns to tragedy when 3 girls go missing in Taroko Gorge National Park in Taiwan. The last to see them alive appears to have been Peter Neils, an American reporter, and his photographer Josh Pickett. They are the first to be suspected of foul play by the investigating policeman.

The close knit dynamics of the class breaks down as it becomes obvious that the girls are not going to be found before nightfall. And the weather plays its part as Taiwan is lashed by a typhoon.

Jacob Ritari's debut novel has an interesting structure with chapters from the point of view of various characters including the American journalist, two or three of the students, and the detective. It explores the fact that even in a crisis such as occurs here, people don't always behave as they should. In the investigating detective, a local somewhat elderly Taiwanese called Chao, Ritari has created an interesting character whom he could possibly think of bringing back in later novels. I found him more interesting than the American journalist whom I think Ritari intended to be the glue that held everything together.

Although this novel is categorised at NetGalley as adult fiction, I think it may also have an appeal to young adult readers. I am thinking particularlof its exploration of the emotions and reactions of the young students to the disappearance of their classmates, as well as the underlying tensions resulting from their growing sexual awareness.

My rating 4.0

Jacob Ritari has studied with the Fo Guang Shan Buddhist organization in Taiwan and studied Japanese language and literature at Japan's Sophia University. He lives near New York City.


Anonymous said...

Thanks, Kerrie, for this review. It sounds like an interesting debut, and I find the setting fascinating.

NancyO said...

This sounds so good I'm putting it on my Amazon wishlist to remind myself to pick it up. I love novels set in Asia. Thanks for the review. Nicely done!


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