Behind the Hood: Book Review

(Behind the Lives: Book One)
By Marita A. Hansen
Published August 2011
Available on Amazon

Life on the rough side of New Zealand.

In this South Auckland neighbourhood where gang culture, drink, drugs, sex and violence is already a way of life; a vicious attack on a teenage girl sparks a ripple effect of revenge and fury. Live the carnage through multiple viewpoints as the tale unfolds to a bloody climax. NOT for the fainthearted.





My Review: This is a novel that grabbed me from the very first page and wouldn't let go. The story takes a brutally honest look at the lives of impoverished young adults and teens from a tough New Zealand neighborhood. The author explores drug addiction, violence, sexual assault, sexual abuse, poverty, gang culture, and the ties that bind families and friends together. While some of these characters are loathsome, many are just victims of life. Some, like Tama, move through life like wild animals, ruled by the desire for drink, drugs, and sex. Others struggle to raise children the best way they know how. This book is realism at its finest. Though the story line is often depressing, there are glimpses of hope.

When I first started reading the book, I thought the story was going to be about the series of events that stemmed from Tama's attack on Maia. And, to an extent, that's what the story is about. But that's not entirely true. For many of these characters, their lives were on track toward a going-nowhere existence long before Tama's lapse in judgment. These characters are immune to violence. It's a way of life. Their lives are rooted in despair, and they are destined for crime, poverty, and tragedy. They have their own moral code and settle their own scores, often reluctant to get the police involved.

But just when you think the book is a long string of horrific events, the author delves deep, introducing us to the real person underneath the persona. We meet Jess--a mother who loves her child and husband unconditionally. Nike--a man who is loyal to his wife and determined to take care of his family any way he can. Mikey--a damaged teen with an unimaginable secret. Rory--a man who, on the surface, is just a do-nothing stepfather, but who steps up to the plate when his family needs him the most. Tama--on the surface, he seems to be lacking a conscience entirely, but we see glimpses of remorse that are hidden beneath a deep seated pathology. Tama is a very complex character who sets this story in motion. I spent most of the book hating him, but there was a tiny part of me that felt sorry for him and wanted him to redeem himself. Not all the characters in this book are victims. We meet characters with moral strength and compassion.

I could probably ramble on about this book all day. I'll certainly be thinking about it for a long time. It's the kind of book that stays with you, that makes you think about nature versus nurture, and whether or not some people are born without or conscience, or some people have it beaten out of them through circumstance. This book is very well-crafted and the writing is flawless, but it is very violent with graphic sexual content. I would recommend this book to anyone who is looking for a serious, thought-provoking read.

My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars