CM . . .
. Volume XII Number 5 . . . . October 28, 2005
Mara has grown up in the harsh world of Regnboga, a walled settlement in a vast desert. Villagers are always under the eyes of the Watchers and must abide by strict rules. Those who can't - or won't - are severely whipped or, worse yet, left in the desert to die. Mara and Aunt Stone manage to escape and head toward the sea. En route, Mara's understanding changes completely: her real name is Oriana Estelle, and her "aunt" is actually her guardian, Morwenna Marina, Daughter of the Sea. The adventure continues, and Oriana, eventually on her own, has a life-threatening fall and is taken in by people who are the exact opposite of those in Regnboga. Once nursed back to health, she chooses to return to Regnboga in an effort to help them understand there is a happier, brighter world available for them.
Catherine Taylor's debut novel is an interesting mixture of adventure, fantasy and myth. The distant future is a post-apocalyptic world of fear, anger, and suspicion, a desert both physically and emotionally. Taylor's writing the novel in the first person helps readers to see and feel just as Mara/Oriana does.
This novel is dark in places, but it would entertain younger readers as an adventure/fantasy story. Mara faces many physical obstacles and hardships, and these help move the plot along. On another level, the book is a good comparison piece with other novels set in futuristic societies. Compelling social questions are raised. For instance, "What better way is there to keep people quiet than to quash all hopes and quench all questions?" (p. 101), and "In Regnboga, we don't have to think; we simply obey, and I savor this new feeling of satisfaction at creating my own solution" (p. 102).
Like other good novels, Thirst is engaging and interesting, with enough action to keep the pages turning. The vocabulary and pace of the novel would please junior readers. Yet is also is thought-provoking and asks philosophical questions which are not easily answered. Older students could look beneath the surface at the questions raised and the symbolism used. For example, Oriana is persecuted, leaves home and nearly dies, and then returns to spread the word of hope to her people. The comparisons are many. Thirst is a provocative piece of writing in the guise of a young adult novel.
Now living in Ottawa, ON, Ann Ketcheson is a former teacher of high school English and French as well as having experience as a secondary school teacher-librarian.
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Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.