Publisher: University of Queensland Press
Publication Date: 2 February 2021
Australian RRP: $24.99
A gifted student, Nia longs to attend high school so she can follow her dream and become a writer. She has notebooks filled with stories she’s created about the mythological Dewi Kadita, Princess of the Southern Sea. But her family has barely enough money for food, let alone an education, so Nia’s days are spent running their food cart and raising her younger brother.
Following a miraculous escape from a bus accident, Nia is gifted with good-luck magic. Or at least that’s what everyone’s saying. Soon their family business is booming and there might even be enough money to return to school. But how long can her good luck last?
When a secret promise threatens everything she’s hoped for, Nia must find a way to break the mould and write her own future.
My Blurb (4/5 stars)
A beautiful eye-catching cover but the thing that the book called to me about is its setting. It is set in Jakarta (capital of Indonesia) which was where I was born. I also spent my first 15 years there so I am mostly excited in being able to reminisce about my childhood and maybe also to be able to share with my own children, what it was like.
I am embarrassed to admit that I’m not familiar with this particular mythology of Dewi Kadita. It is possible though that I’ve just forgotten a lot of the stories as I have spent more years living in Australia than Indonesia. However, the way these stories are told in the book sound just like they would be told except, of course, in a different language.
Nia is certainly a strong character and she grew to be even stronger, at the end. Her experiences are not to be envied but luckily, she has her own guardian angels. She is definitely a character I can empathise with, even when her naivety nearly brings her to ruins. Her passion for writing and education, her love for her brother, and her diligence are admirable and truly aspiring.
Not all her friends are like Nia, of course. In fact, all her best friend wanted is to buy a new mobile phone and that’s what she’s saving for. She may sound rather shallow from this one sentence but do not underestimate her resourcefulness! Nia’s father is a drunkard and basically useless but there is another older male character for which I’m still scratching my head over as I just don’t understand the different pictures portrayed of him. I’d really like him to be better developed.
My childhood is not at all like Nia’s, the protagonist of this novel, as I’ve been so very blessed in life but I have seen with my own eyes those slums she lives in. I’ve worn the red & white uniform her brother wears to school. I’ve bought & eaten my share of fried bananas and martabak (I’ve introduced my boys to this last delicious dessert and now they’d fight me for the last piece!). To me, this novel is a trip through memory lanes and such a wonderful journey as I read this all in a single sitting. I loved it but unfortunately, due to the serious note of this novel, I’ve not been able to get the boys interested. Maybe another time…
Girl of the Southern Sea is a delightful coming-of-age story of a young girl chasing after her dreams. It is a novel which helps you see a little bit of how the other half of the world live and one that encourages all to never never give up.
Thanks to University of Queensland Press for copy of book in exchange of honest review. And thanks, AusYABloggers for organising the tour.
Find all the other stops by following the Tour Schedule
About the author
Michelle Kadarusman is an Australian-Indonesian children’s author. She grew up in Melbourne and has lived many years throughout Indonesia, and in Canada. Her novels have been nominated for various awards, including the Canadian Governor General’s Literary Awards and the Malka Penn Award for Human Rights in Children’s Literature. They have also earned numerous honours, including USBBY Outstanding International Book, two Junior Library Guild Selections, and a nomination for the Ontario Library Association Silver Birch Fiction Award.