Reviews /

Tyenna

Authored by Julie Hunt and Terry Whitebeach
Published by Allen and Unwin

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Tyenna is part of a series called ‘Through My Eyes: Australian Disaster Stories’, based on real-life scenarios. This story is about the bushfires in the island state of Tasmania in 2019. I was impressed by the supporting website and the material in the end matter that helps us engage with issues such as climate change, the pressures of adolescence, personal responsibility, family relationships and ecology. By the end, Tyenna is also aware that the indigenous Australians have an entirely different relationship to Country that they would do well to respect.

I noted the occasional clunky word but overall, the third person, present tense narration feels vivid. I become immersed in Tyenna’s world. We sense her dismay when she arrives at her grandparents’ property to find the savage cutback of bushland to create a firebreak. As the days pass, the tension increases. More and more spot fires break out, ever nearer. With her grandparents on fire-watch duties, Tyenna is left to run their holiday accommodation. But she is distracted by the discovery of Bailey, a runaway boy with a troubled past. She helps him with supplies but is conflicted by his insistence on secrecy. She is also distressed by her mother’s apparent lack of interest in her welfare.

There’s a tense climax but the story goes beyond the aftermath of the fire. We see a new life for Tyenna, and regeneration of the landscape. Tyenna worries about her personal safety but also fears for the future of the planet.