The Turn of the Tide by Rosanne Parry
When an earthquake hits Japan, Kai tries to help his elderly grandparents escape the tsunami waves, but he is unable to get them to move fast enough. After the immediate crisis, Kai is moved from his home in Japan to the safety of Oregon to live with his cousins. His parents stayed behind in Japan to work on the nuclear power plant that was damaged in the storm. Jet is the cousin that Kai moves in with. She dreams of being the pilot of a boat on the Columbia Bar. One day she misses checking the tide though and puts her little brother in serious danger on the water. These two cousins, each wrestling with the results of their actions and the tug of their dreams, have to find a way to forgive themselves and move forward.
Parry, author of Heart of a Shepherd, has once again captured the courage of children on the page. The two protagonists are unique voices in children’s literature. Kai from Japan looks at everything in America as different and foreign. He struggles with his own role in his grandparent’s death and feels a loss of honor for leaving Japan and escaping to safety himself rather than helping rebuild. Jet is a courageous girl who struggles to make and keep friends. She is passionate about sailing and boats but also about her family. Jet doesn’t warm to people easily, and the two cousins face interpersonal issues between them that are organic and realistic.
The setting too is beautifully rendered. The Oregon coast and the Columbia River Bar add real drama and danger to the story. The ever-present weather and tides, the concerns with sailing and family honor, and the dreams of Jet herself meld together into a mix of adventure and destiny. The book has facts at the end about the Columbia River Bar Pilots and about Captain Deborah Dempsey who appears as a character in the book, the only female Columbia River Bar pilot.
Realistic and dangerous adventure in a beautiful and unique part of the United States, this book speaks to working to forgive yourself and overcoming adversity by doing the right thing. Appropriate for ages 9-12.
Reviewed from e-galley received from Random House Books for Young Readers and Edelweiss.
The Question of Miracles by Elana K. Arnold
Iris and her family have just moved to Corvallis, Oregon where Iris longs for sunshine and warm weather but is constantly faced with falling rain. Iris is struggling with the death of her best friend and has very little interest in making new friends or exploring her new town. Iris meets Boris and the two slowly become friends despite the fact that Boris is a messy eater, breaths through his mouth all the time, and wants Iris to play Magic all the time. But Boris is also fascinating to Iris because his birth could have been a real miracle that the Vatican is investigating. Iris wants to know how some people get miracles and others don’t. And what’s with the haunting presence she feels in the cupboard under the stairs where her best friend’s tennis racket rests? Is it possible that there is another miracle about to happen and Iris will be able to contact her friend?
Arnold does a simply beautiful job of writing this novel. Her crafting of Iris’ world and family is done with a gentleness and detail that is inspired. And through it all, readers will feel the chill of the constantly falling rain, the loneliness of the tennis racket under the stairs, and the sorrow that leads Iris to fall asleep early often. Arnold also shows in imagery over and over again the impermanence of things. From snow angels that are stepped on to eggs that don’t hatch, she crafts moments of fragility that show the uncertainty of life.
At the same time, she uses intense moments of comfort and being together with others that are warming and stand brightly against the cold wet weather that Iris finds herself trapped in. Those moments show such hope for Iris in a way that is tangible and realistic. Arnold also allows readers to see Oregon through Iris’ eyes for the most part. While there are these moments of light and warmth, snacks and hot chocolate, readers will start to see the beauty of Oregon and the wonder of the rain only when Iris herself starts to lift out of grief. The entire process is done over time and very realistically.
Beautiful writing that is poetic and filled with imagery yet easy to read and understand, this book will speak to fans of Kevin Henkes. Appropriate for ages 9-12
Reviewed from library copy.
The River by Mary Jane Beaufrand
Ronnie has moved from Portland to rural Oregon with her parents. They now live at the end of a dead-end road and run an inn. Ronnie is not happy at all to have moved to this very isolated area where she can hear the river running. Ronnie has taken up running and people along her route time her run, including the local ranger and a family with lots of children. Ronnie quickly learned to follow one of those children, because Karen was always up for an adventure. But when she is on her run one day, Ronnie glimpses something along the river and discovers Karen’s body. Now the sinister and gloomy feel of the area comes to fruition as Ronnie is obsessed with figuring out who would kill Karen and what Karen may have discovered in one of her adventures along the river.
Beautifully atmospheric, this novel excels at bringing the world of rural Oregon to life. Filled with sensory information like the sounds of the river, the feel of the rain, and the small details of life at the inn, readers are surrounded by Ronnie’s world. The book also does well in building tension through the slow storytelling in the beginning. The details and the pace help build the eeriness of the novel.
However, the book does fall short despite the great writing. Ronnie’s character is well-developed and interesting, but others around her are not as well defined. Her foster brother Tomas is not even introduced in the first couple of chapters and suddenly appears. When their relationship becomes more involved, it is done suddenly and with little build up which was jarring. Additionally, the slow pace of the beginning of the novel turns into a rushing speed where the lovely details are forgotten and the mystery is solved far too quickly.
I would have loved this novel if the pacing was more consistent and the characters better defined. But even with these shortcomings, the novel will be enjoyed by teen readers who will find a contemporary mystery set in an evocative place. Appropriate for ages 14-16.
Reviewed from library copy.
Also reviewed by Words World and Wings, Katie’s Bookshelf, Sarah’s Random Musings, The Reading Zone, Wordbird, and Katie’s Book Blog.