Friday, November 6, 2009

Walking Backward review

Jacket description (from ARC):

"After his mother dies in a car crash, twelve-year-old Josh is left with a father who is building a time machine in the basement and a little brother who talks to a toy Power Ranger as if it is his dead mother. With no faith to guide him, Josh makes death his summer research project. He collects facts, interviews, suspects, compares religious rituals and feels guilty when he enjoys playing soccer or winning computer games. Isolated by grief in a home where every day is pajama day, Josh waits for life to feel normal, for death to make sense, and for his father to start acting like a father."

I think the hardest book to write is probably one about death for middle graders or younger. Seriously, you have to explain it well, not too tough, not too easy. It must be a very difficult task to accomplish for an author. Catherine Austen has created a book and a character in Josh, that takes apart the innocence of a young boy, applies the factor of death of a parent, and puts that innocence back together very artfully.

Though the plot is a bit rough around the edges, the concept of the religion search and how Josh wants to examine different death rituals, is really cool. I thought his ideas of just how his mother died and why it would have happened that way are heartfelt and convincing. His character is written extremely well and realistically. In fact, all the characters, Josh, his dad, and younger brother Sam, are all well done and true to life. I think they each experienced the loss in real ways, as real people would, and slowly grew and healed.

Again, some parts of the plot are a little iffy and needed some fine tuning. I can't exactly explain which parts, but I came away from the book feeling as if it were a bit unfinished. A very nice choice to hand a pre-teen though or a reluctant reader. Easy to read, short, and dealing with a subject not easily dealt with.

Walking Backward
Catherine Austen
167 pages
Middle Grade Fiction
Orca Book Publishers
October 2009
Review copy received from publisher

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1 comment:

Staci said...

This one sounds promising. I think I may have to read it. We've had 4 students who have lost a parent in the past month. Sometimes they aren't willing to talk about it but maybe reading about another kid like themselves going through this would help them.

Thanks for answering my question from your post yesterday!! :)