Lost on Brier Island – Jo Ann Yhard – 2011, Nimbus Publishing Ltd., Halifax
Spending the summer on a beautiful island with her loving, free-spirited aunt isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be for young Alex – guilt-ridden and mourning, her parents’ relationship crumbling, she’s got a lot on her mind. Full of sorrow and anger, Alex initially rejects the care and concern of her aunt’s friends, Gus and Eva (and Gus’ niece, Rachel) and refuses to come out of her shell. But the island and the ocean surrounding it is spellbinding, full of wonder and whales, and Alex becomes particularly interested in the movements of a baby whale she names Daredevil. When Alex, Rachel, and Daredevil end up in danger, it’s up to the usually timid, frightened Alex to rescue herself and her new friends – and in doing so, grow ever closer to coming to terms with her grief and her place in the world.
There is a ton to love about this book – it’s very beautifully written, with a sensitivity that never gets too sentimental and overwrought, and there are plenty of good humorous moments to counter Alex’s sadness. And I really like the fact that Alex seems like a real fourteen year old – she’s not too mature, she’s not fourteen-going-on-seventeen like so many protagonists in books for the same readership. She’s certainly not naive – she’s smart and creative, but she is also plagued with insecurities and fears that seem very genuine and easy to relate to.
Yhard does some wonderful descriptive work with the setting – it sounds so beautiful and wild, and gets me thinking that I ought to book a trip to that part of the country one of these years. Spending a summer whale-watching and hiking among the wildflowers would be a dream!