He’d always accepted the mine and power station were part of Shelbourne. On still nights, the thrum of the turbines echoed down the valley and melded with the sound of the ocean until you couldn’t tell them apart.
Hesse lives a small coastal town, where a coalmine and power station are a part of the scenery, and a part of the ever-growing problem of climate change. His mum is a member of a local environmental group campaigning to close the mine and shut down the power station. It’s a no-brainer, of course, but Hesse is more interested in surfing—and in Fenna, the new exchange student from the Netherlands.
But when someone seems to be trying to derail the campaign, and his friends’ families face losing their jobs, Hesse begins to realise that things are complex.
Even though he’s reluctant to step into the spotlight, with Fenna’s encouragement he decides it’s time to make a stand. Because some things are too important to leave to everyone else. And even one small, nervous voice can make a difference.
When Hesse agrees to speak at a protest meeting he has no idea of the storm he is about to unleash.
If Not Us is Mark Smith’s first standalone YA novel following his hugely successful Winter trilogy. It’s another great story with an engaging and relatable protagonist, as well as an impassioned plea for climate-change action that will inspire and empower readers of all ages.
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Readings: Must-read YA for the second half of 2021
‘Smith’s descriptions of coastal surf life are vivid and transportive…this novel might kick-start a few important conversations.’
‘If Not Us has it all: gutsy characters, a good fight, bone-shaking loss, love and hope.’
‘A blast to read, filled with earnest romance, great drama and some brilliant descriptions of surfing…a story that recognises both the power of mass movements, as well as the importance of individual participation.’
‘An important and timely story about finding and using your voice as a young person in a complicated world. Moving and powerful, If Not Us is the right book for right now.’
‘A page-turner and a rallying cry with heart and soul.’
‘A tightly packed thriller of a read, the story leads itself to a wide range of eager teen readers…[An] ideal vehicle to encourage discussion and thought with secondary students and teachers.’
’Smith deftly captures the transition from the teen world of wide-eyed optimism and first love to the adult world of concrete responsibilities and severe repercussions.’