International Writers Magazine - Our Tenth Year: Review
TIDE by Sam North,
Lulu Press, 2008 - 234 pp, paperback
by Charlie Dickinson
hero of Sam North's young adult novel MEAN TIDE is Oliver, a survivor
of much at his tender age of twelve years, and a likable lad coming
to terms with a quite odd and mysterious adult world about him.
the opening pages of MEAN TIDE, the reader is transported into Oliver's
world with compelling and salient sensory detail.
One of North's
storytelling talents is he gets the basics of Oliver's world right.
For example, what is Oliver's strongest yearning? Is it that he'd be
reunited with his father who's gone missing in Africa? Or that his mother,
institutionally lost in the world of the insane, will return? No, it's
about his hair, or lack thereof. He survived a brain tumor, endured
chemotherapy, and now wants nothing more than to stop being bald as
an egg. He simply yearns for the return of the first fuzz. He doesn't
want to wear hats the rest of his life. Seemingly a vain yearning, true,
but just talk to any juvenile who's had a bout with cancer and see what
they really want out of life.
Having survived cancer and bereft of both parents, Oliver makes his
way to the southeast reaches of Greater London in Greenwich by the River
Thames with his beloved cat Flop. Together, the two take up residence
with a cast of offbeat characters, headed by Oliver's Grandma Otis.
Mysterious goings-on abound: seances with the dead, criminal activity,
a dead body or two washed up on the river tide. Through all the adventures,
Oliver soldiers on with curiosity, finding perhaps a "chosen"
family for the one he earlier lost.
One of author North's narrative skills as we follow Oliver's youthful
exploits is a seamless switching of point of view. Without a bobble,
we go from Oliver's mind into that of Grandma Otis and back to Oliver's
(or even into cat Flop's!). The POV switches makes these unusual characters
all the more credible.
As a young adult novel, MEAN TIDE has several strengths. Oliver is thrown
in a new world, pluckily managing to make it his, while at the same
time partaking some of its rewards, comfort, and mystery (as discovering
his psychic talents). The blossoming of a simpatico friendship with
the older but fragile Aura teaches him about coping with illness in
life. A love interest in mysterious Justine. The continuing companionship
of his indefatigable cat Flop.
At novel's end, Oliver faces an upbeat future--even without hoped-for
fuzz on his bald pate. He's earned confidence from sorting out a lot
among his new "family" and keen appreciation for the adventure
becoming a young adult can be. The reader closes Oliver's story, knowing
the hero has made up for a lot of personal loss in its first pages and
sees Oliver as stronger for his unstinting effort. Though a young adult
novel, MEAN TIDE is recommended for narrative sophistication that will
appeal to readers of all ages.
Dickinson Jan 2009
rufusfelix at fastmail.net
in 'Twilight' country and is currently writing a novel
I talk about when I talk about running:
a memoir by Haruki Murakami,
makes Haruki Murakami-Japanese novelist, often suggested as Japan's
next Nobel Prize winner for Literature-run? Here, told in Murakami's
irresistible prose style, abundant with droll humor, is the straight
skinny on why this man of letters, who turns sixty next year, runs at
least one marathon every year.
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