Controversial Kiwi novel Into the River gets unrestricted label after review

The Film and Literature Board of Review has classified the controversial Kiwi novel Into the River as unrestricted, noting other polarising works of fiction such as the Hunger Games and 50 Shades of Grey are freely available.

‘Into The River’ has a blanket ban and must be removed from all stores and libraries until a final decision can be made. Source: Breakfast

Ted Dawe's novel was pulled from shelves after Don Mathieson, QC, the president of the Film and Literature Board of Review, placed an interim ban on the book.

Today, the board released its judgement regarding the classification of the novel and said while "there can be no doubt that the book describes, depicts and otherwise deals with matters such as sex, crime, cruelty and violence", it did not breach the threshold required to permanently ban it.

"At a time when one of the highest selling young adult series is the The Hunger Games, which has as its central premise a competition where children are required to murder each other, and where the 50 Shades of Grey series is freely available in bookshops on an unrestricted basis, it is perhaps surprising that it is Into The River that has occasioned so much attention and so little consensus," the board said.

"There is some subject matter in the book dealing with violence, both psychological and physical. However, the board does not consider the violence crosses the threshold of being 'extreme violence or extreme cruelty'."

The board said the book discussed "issues such as bullying, underage drinking, drug taking, and underage sex", which are "very real, albeit undesirable, features of contemporary urban life".

"These features are neither new, nor exclusive to New Zealand. Nevertheless, they are challenges which many of our school children will face and about which they will be required to make choices."

Family First NZ condemned the decision of the board and said it had succumbed to "pressure from the book industry", despite Dawe's "highly offensive and gratuitous language, adult themes and graphic sexual content".

"A dangerous precedent has been set and parents will now feel disempowered and that their concerns will be ignored regarding similar books," Family First national director Bob McCoskrie said.