CM . . . . Volume XVII Number 20. . . .January 28th, 2010.
Toronto, ON: Dundurn Press, 2010.
283 pp., pbk., $12.99.
Grades 5-7 / Ages 10-12.
Review by Karen Boyd.
*** / 4
"I know it's hard, Mike, but you have to look for what isn't obvious. Look around you. Take your time. Something's waiting for you in Inuvik. Something you'll take with you for the rest of your life."
"Right now it's pretty hard to see anything," Mike said. "Today's pretty nice, but it's not lacrosse. As far as I'm concerned, all I can see is no lacrosse, a monster who wants to kill me, and a girl who plays sports like a boy and wants to beat the crap out of me."
Mike Watson is 14-years-old, living in St. Albert, AB, and has just won the Alberta Bantam Provincial box lacrosse championships. From Mike's point of view, life couldn't get much better. He finds out that life can quickly take a turn for the worse. In Feagan's new book, Arctic Thunder, Mike struggles with the changes in his life as he and his parents move to Inuvik, Northwest Territories. In this consummate Canadian book, not only does Mike play the national sport of lacrosse, but his father is moved because of his job as a member of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Mike finds himself dealing with being the new kid in town in a town that only has one traffic light.
As the new kid in town, Mike is introduced to snowmobiling, camping, and Arctic sports. Feagan describes these events in wonderful detail which allows for an in-depth look at the Arctic community. In turn, Mike introduces his new friends to the sport of lacrosse and witnesses their varying strengths combine to form a different type of championship team. It is nice to see a book that deals with a less mainstream sport, and Feagan's description allows for an understanding of lacrosse for a novice, while not being condescending to those readers with lacrosse experience.
The action of the sports scenes is nicely contrasted with the teenage drama of friendship and belonging and also complemented by the descriptions of the stunning landscapes inside the Arctic Circle.
The only issue with this book is Feagan's use of inauthentic teen dialogue to move the story along. When Joseph Kiktorak, the monster that Mike refers to in the excerpt, is found in the community centre after breaking in to watch the hockey game, he quickly discloses to Mike and his father that he was kicked off the hockey team for smoking dope, is living with his grandmother while his mother works, and was abandoned by his biological father. While this information was critical for the reader to have, it seems unlikely that Joseph would place this much trust in a new RCMP officer and open up so readily and articulately. Similarly, Mike is able to articulate his own feelings of anger and bitterness with a level of self-reflection that seems commendable but unrealistic. In addition, Gwen, an angry and unfriendly girl, makes a dramatic change of character without much explanation. In contrast, as the nerdish best friend who welcomes Mike into the school, Donnie is a fascinating, well-developed and likable character. The reader will be drawn to Donnie and root for him as the reluctant, replacement lacrosse goalie. All the characters in the book are likeable, and Feagan introduces a wide variety of both teen and adult characters without resorting to stereotypes.
Karen Boyd is a doctoral candidate in language and literacy and an instructor in the Bachelor of Education program at the University of Manitoba.
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