Author(s): Whiti Hereaka
Seventeen-year-old Riki is worried about school and the future, but mostly about his girlfriend, Gemma, who has suddenly stopped seeing or texting him. But on his way to see her, he's hit by a bus and his life radically changes. Riki wakes up one hundred years earlier in Egypt, in 1915, and finds he's living through his great-great-grandfather's experiences in the Maori Contingent. At the same time that Riki tries to make sense of what's happening and find a way home, we go back in time and read transcripts of interviews Riki's great-great-grandfather gave in 1975 about his experiences in this war and its impact on their family. Gradually we realise the fates of Riki and his great-great-grandfather are intertwined.
When 17-year-old Te Ariki Mikaera Puweto, better known as Riki, is hit by a bus in Lambton Quay (a quite believable occurrence), he wakes up a hundred years earlier in Cairo in 1915. Mistaken for his own great-great-grandfather (with whom he shares a name), Riki has to navigate life as a member of the Maori Contingent - trying to stay alive in the trenches at Gallipoli while attempting to find a way back to his own time. Is there some secret he needs to discover, a door he needs to open which, just like in a videogame, will magically transport him home?
Tense, twisty and beautifully written, Legacy is not only an important book, it's a fantastic, exciting and challenging read. It doesn't shy away from the realities of the time with Riki waking up in the midst of The Battle of the Wazza - a riot in which the Anzacs ransacked and set fire to houses in the Haret Al Wassir red-light district of Cairo - but, as a character from our time, Riki is able to ask the questions we would ask and reflect on what has and hasn't changed in the last one hundred years. His mother, in 2015, is an academic and his grandfather a history teacher so he's able to ask some very pertinent questions about racism and about how we commemorate soldiers and think about war - while never stepping out of character or seeming polemical. He also teaches the soldiers some modern slang which makes for a rather hilarious scene!
With an emphasis on friendship and family, and posing some huge and fascinating ethical questions, Legacy should be read by every teenager - and by those of us who didn't get to read it when we were teenagers. There's some coarse language (as there would be amongst soldiers) and it gets quite gruesome in the trenches so we're recommending it for 14+
You can find a great interview with Whiti Hereaka on RNZ and an excellent article by her on The Sapling.