by Nadja Marek
“You can’t transform a society for the better with violence, Ashala. Only with ideas.”(Kwaymullina 190)
As a person who genuinely enjoys dystopian novels, I have encountered many novels that involve the same aspects of this genre. The Interrogation of Ashala Wolf surprised me in several ways, and I really enjoyed its unique use of narrative devices and play of temporal and spatial factors. The novel is set 300 years in the future and nature is almost completely destroyed. The main protagonist, Ashala Wolf, is the leader of a tribe with children who have special powers. They live together in the so-called Firstwood, outside of the city. These kids are being chased by the government and Ashala ends up getting captured and locked up. She is tied to a machine, which then extracts her memories.
The Interrogation of Ashala Wolf is divided into different days of Ashala being locked up, as well as into core memories the machine extracts from her mind. The switch between these two allows the novel to build up tension and ultimately come to a plot twist that no one expects.
Ambelin Kwaymullina uses the Aboriginal concept of time to represent indigenous perception and values within her novel. In contrast to the western standard of perceiving time in a linear model, Aboriginal people see time as something circular, something that is moving around an individual. The more important an event is, the closer it is to time. This is clearly shown in her narrative structure, as she reconstructs the events going on around Ashala Wolf and their importance to the storyline. The chapters jump in-between time, which gives the reader a nice foreshadowing of what is going to help her get out of the institution where Ashala has been kept.
The Interrogation of Ashala Wolf is a Young Adult Dystopian fiction that gives a voice to Australian history and combines it with a beautiful story about bravery and rebellion. Anyone who enjoys a lighthearted post-apocalyptic dystopia should give this book a try, it is definitely worth it. The combination of mythology, as well as futuristic themes, makes this novel a unique experience. I am also excited to read more about Ashala and her fellow peers in the other books of the tribe series: The Disappearance of Ember Crow and The Foretelling of Georgie Spider.
Kwaymullina, Ambelin. The Interrogation of Ashala Wolf. Candlewick Press, 2016.