Book Review: Son of a Trickster

Son of a Trickster (Trickster #1) by Eden Robinson

With striking originality and precision, Eden Robinson, the Giller-shortlisted author of the classic Monkey Beach and winner of the Writers Trust Engel/Findley Award, blends humour with heartbreak in this compelling coming-of-age novel. Everyday teen existence meets indigenous beliefs, crazy family dynamics, and cannibalistic river otter . . . The exciting first novel in her trickster trilogy.

Everyone knows a guy like Jared: the burnout kid in high school who sells weed cookies and has a scary mom who’s often wasted and wielding some kind of weapon. Jared does smoke and drink too much, and he does make the best cookies in town, and his mom is a mess, but he’s also a kid who has an immense capacity for compassion and an impulse to watch over people more than twice his age, and he can’t rely on anyone for consistent love and support, except for his flatulent pit bull, Baby Killer (he calls her Baby)–and now she’s dead.

Jared can’t count on his mom to stay sober and stick around to take care of him. He can’t rely on his dad to pay the bills and support his new wife and step-daughter. Jared is only sixteen but feels like he is the one who must stabilize his family’s life, even look out for his elderly neighbours. But he struggles to keep everything afloat…and sometimes he blacks out. And he puzzles over why his maternal grandmother has never liked him, why she says he’s the son of a trickster, that he isn’t human. Mind you, ravens speak to him–even when he’s not stoned.

You think you know Jared, but you don’t.

Review:
Son of a Trickster is an interesting book and Robinson is clearly a gifted storyteller. There were parts I loved and I was really looking forward to the supernatural aspect. Also, being from BC, I love reading books set in the familiar landscape of my province.
Most of the book is about Jared and is life and how he deals with what is going on around him. There is a lot of drinking and drugs. A lot. I found this part of the book to get repetitive, though I did like Jared and felt for him. I liked how he was friends with his elderly neighbours, how he loved his dog, and how he tried hard in his own way. He is a well developed character with depth when he could easily have been a stereotype.
There are definitely some difficult situations in this book, situations that too many kids have had to go through and that is hard to read.
I especially loved the end, when the magical aspect became more prominent, leaving me anxious to read the next book in this series and find out what is next for Jared.
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Book Review: The Migration

The Migration by Helen Marshall

Creepy and atmospheric, evocative of Stephen King’s classic Pet Sematary , The Migration is a story of sisterhood, transformation, and the limitations of love, from a thrilling new voice in Canadian fiction.

When I was younger I didn’t know a thing about death. I thought it meant stillness, a body gone limp. A marionette with its strings cut. Death was like a long vacation–a going away.

Storms and flooding are worsening around the world, and a mysterious immune disorder has begun to afflict the young. Sophie Perella is about to begin her senior year of high school in Toronto when her little sister, Kira, is diagnosed. Their parents’ marriage falters under the strain, and Sophie’s mother takes the girls to Oxford, England, to live with their Aunt Irene. An Oxford University professor and historical epidemiologist obsessed with relics of the Black Death, Irene works with a centre that specializes in treating people with the illness. She is a friend to Sophie, and offers a window into a strange and ancient history of human plague and recovery. Sophie just wants to understand what’s happening now; but as mortality rates climb, and reports emerge of bodily tremors in the deceased, it becomes clear there is nothing normal about this condition–and that the dead aren’t staying dead. When Kira succumbs, Sophie faces an unimaginable choice: let go of the sister she knows, or take action to embrace something terrifying and new.
Tender and chilling, unsettling and hopeful, The Migration is a story of a young woman’s dawning awareness of mortality and the power of the human heart to thrive in cataclysmic circumstances.

Review:
I’ve never read a book quite like The Migration. It had me intrigued by the synopsis and then when I started reading, I was quickly engaged with the characters and the strange plight happening to the children around the world.
The writing is lovely, conveying the attachment between the sisters and the difficulty that a chronic illness can take on a family. I especially loved the research and imagination shown by the author in developing this strange illness that is plaguing only children.
There is a strange, almost sci-fi feel to this book and it won’t be for everyone but I did enjoy this flight of imagination.
Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for a review copy of this book.
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Book Review: The Hate U Give

The Hate U Give

“What’s the point of having a voice if you’re gonna be silent in those moments you shouldn’t be?”

Sixteen-year-old Starr lives in two worlds: the poor neighbourhood where she was born and raised and her posh high school in the suburbs. The uneasy balance between them is shattered when Starr is the only witness to the fatal shooting of her unarmed best friend, Khalil, by a police officer. Now what Starr says could destroy her community. It could also get her killed.

Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil’s name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr.

But what Starr does or does not say could upend her community. It could also endanger her life.

Review:

I bought this for my daughter because I had heard about it. She raced through it, said it was one of her favourite books ever and handed it to me to read.
Wow.
This is such a well told book. It deals with big issues, but does it in a sensitive, intelligent, and even educational way.
Initially, the book was a little hard for me to get into, but once I did, I couldn’t put it down. The characters are real, diverse, and authentic — and I love how they discussed their various points of view, giving the reader insights into some important issues.
The book revolves around Starr, a teen who has to choose how to use her voice. She has to decide whether or not to tell her story after witnessing her unarmed friend get shot by a police officer. This is a killing that has shaken her whole neighbourhood and there are pros and cons for Starr to tell her story publicly. She has to decide how to act as an African American girl at a predominantly white school. She has to decide who to be in her neighbourhood.  There are so many choices and they come down to how to use your voice and how to tell your story.
This is a powerful book and one that both teens and adults will get something out of.
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Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone

(Harry Potter #1)

by J.K. Rowling

This isn’t exactly a book review — it is so hard to review such an iconic book. This is more about the experience of re-reading Harry Potter after so many years.
Our local library is an amazing place, and this year, they have started a Book Geeks reading club aimed at adults, where our goal is to read and talk about one of the Harry Potter books each month. We had our first meeting earlier this month and it was so much fun. There was a group of us, all who were excited to geek out about Harry Potter.
I was an adult when Harry Potter first came out and I decided to pick it up because I knew I’d never be able to talk to my niece and nephew again if I didn’t because all of their conversation revolved around it. Instantly, I was hooked and raced through the books as they came out.
Re-reading The Philosopher’s Stone now was so much fun. I could look at what Rowling wrote in the context of the whole series and see the brilliance of it. Not only is it an entertaining and exciting book in it’s own right, full of interesting characters and battles between good and evil, but it set up the whole series. I was so impressed by things I would never have noticed all of those years ago, like mentions of characters important in the next books, and themes and story arcs that are integral to the whole series. Rowling’s vision for her series is masterful. I’ve recently heard that Rowling wrote the end of the last book before she ever wrote the first word of the first book — an impressive feat, but this certainly is what unifies the series so beautifully.
What is there to say, really? The Philosopher’s Stone, even 20 years after it was published, is still one of the best middle grade books out there. It is timeless. My daughter recently started reading this series herself and she is as excited about it now as my niece and nephew were all of those years ago.

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