Sunday, September 13, 2020

The Canyon's Edge

Bowling, Dusti. The Canyon's Edge
September 8th 2020 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

**Spoiler Alert**
I found that it's hard to write this review without immediately revealing key plot elements that are revealed more slowly in the book. Proceed at your own risk!

Nora and her father live in Arizona, and frequently hike and explore canyons. They have made a trip out to a slot canyon on her birthday, which is not a happy occasion any longer. A year ago, while celebrating in a restaurant, her mother was shot and killed by a random gunman. Her father has had an extreme reaction, not letting her go back to school because he can't keep her safe there, and rarely leaving the house himself. He does have her in counseling, and she gets a lot of good advice and coping skills from Mary. She's glad to be doing something with her father that her family had enjoyed doing before everything went wrong, but when there is a sudden flash flood, she fears that she is also going to lose her father. He has managed to get Nora to safety before being washed away himself, and Nora spends days trying to survive while looking for him and for help. She thinks about what happened to her mother, how much she and her father miss her, and how she will be able to go forward if she loses her father as well. Mary has often had Nora assess her feelings about situations by asking her "Are you likely to die?" In this case, Nora may, so she faces some difficult realities about the way she and her father are living.
Strengths: This novel in verse does have some of the chapters in prose, which helps, and Bowling certainly has a great writing style in both types of narrative. I love that her books are set in the Southwest; there aren't a lot of stories that are, and it's an interesting and exotic location for my Ohio readers. I'm glad that she was in counseling, and like Aven in Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus, Nora has a fairly upbeat attitude despite her horrible circumstances. The details of exploring canyons and surviving in the desert add to the appeal of this story.
Weaknesses: This is a personal objection; again, we have a parent who is so grief stricken that he doesn't care appropriately for his daughter. I will never be a fan of this, and think it is an insulting portrayal every time it is done. Not allowing Nora to go back to school is particularly heinous, although I was glad that she was in therapy. I don't know that therapy really helps, but it is the responsible thing to do as a parent.
What I really think: I really enjoyed Pinkney's The Red Pencil, Warga's Other Words for Home, and Hilton's Full Cicada Moon, but can only get a few of my students to check them out. I don't understand it; you would think the fewer words in a verse novel would be a big hit with  my readers, who will hand a book back to me if it is too long or the print is too small. Even Alexander's verse novel The Crossover, which checked out well for a while, has been tough to move. Survival tales generally do well, and I enjoy this author, so I am conflicted.

Ms. Yingling

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