________________ CM . . . . Volume V Number 10 . . . . January 15, 1999

cover Angels in the Snow.

Wenda Young.
Regina, SK: Coteau Books, 1998.
297 pp, pbk., $7.95.
ISBN 1-55050-131-3.

Subject Headings:
Mothers and daughters-Juvenile fiction.
Children of divorced parents-Juvenile fiction.
Japan-Juvenile fiction.

Grades 6 - 9 / Ages 11 - 14.
Review by Joan Marshall.

*** /4


I don't remember what I dreamt about that night, but before I fell asleep I kept remembering how Dan and Mom had laughed when they were talking on the phone, and I couldn't help day dreaming that they would get back together. If only I knew why Mom had left. I could hear Mrs. MacLean's words in my head: "Your mom is the only person who can tell you why she left, Nicky. She's the only person who really knows." I lay there wondering if I'd ever have the courage to ask her. So far, I'd blown every chance I had - and I hadn't had many because we weren't alone that much. Mom kept taking me places, like art galleries and temples and museums, and Aiko or Nate or some other friend of Mom's was sure to go with us. We'd usually eat lunch out, almost always with some of Mom's friends, or I'd eat alone in the apartment if Mom had to teach a late class. I guess Mom was right when she told me that she's the restless type, I thought. But I wish that sometimes we'd just stay at home and talk.
Angels in the Snow is the first novel from Maritimer Wenda Young. Fourteen-year-old Nicole, aka Nicky, is having a terrible year. Her beloved cat has died because of her irresponsibility, her father has taken up with a new woman friend, and Nicky continues to be tortured by not knowing why her mother left her when she was seven. Supported by her beloved grandparents and the friendship of a new boy named Kip, Nicky struggles along, wishing that change wouldn't happen and that her mother would magically return from Japan, where she is teaching, to be reunited with her and her father. Nicky decides to accept her motheršs invitation to visit Japan for three weeks and to get to know her better. During the visit, Nicky gradually begins to realize that her mother has her own life to live and that she loves Nicky even though she can't be with her. Nicky finally finds out that her mother never loved her father, only respected and liked him, and she accepts that they will never be a family again. Nicky returns home determined to control her behavior if not her feelings. She reconciles herself with her father's future wife and tries to decide if she will return to Japan for a longer stay if her mother's boyfriend, Nate, with whom she also has fallen in love, will be there married to her mother. Nicky makes the decision to go back to Japan and then hears by letter that Nate has left her mother to return to New Zealand to study. He does write Nicky a wonderful goodbye letter which helps her to set her priorities and understand her mother better.

     This is a good novel in which an uncertain young teenager, who longs for the safety of the past, grows more and more confident and accepting of her parents' individual lives. Set in Nova Scotia and Japan, the details of teenage friendships and discovering a different way of life in a foreign country are very well done. The dialogue among the teenagers and the descriptions of their behavior are very accurate and believable. Nicky and her friends live through crushes, first kisses and the ever-present school work. They worry about and support each other. Kip's friendship is particularly touching, and it is good to see a writer build a strong friendship between a girl and boy rather than a love interest. Nicky's relationships with her father and grandparents are also well drawn. Readers feel her resentment and yet love for them as this family sorts out who will look after Nicky, where and when. When Nicky visits Japan, the reader is introduced to a different way of living from behaviors to housing and transportation arrangements. Readers clearly understand the tensions Nicky undergoes as she tries to fit in to her mother's new country and life. The countryside is brought to life as Nicky hikes in the mountains, visits temples and bikes everywhere. A long book, at least a third longer than most YA novels, it will take a determined reader to complete it. However, young girls, especially those (of whom there are so many today) who are struggling with divorce in their families, will probably love this book which takes place over the period of a year, thereby giving a more realistic length of time during which Nicky can change and grow. The title's "angels" are both the snow angels Nicky and Kip create in the snow as they make friends and the various people whom Nicky meets who help her understand her feelings and get a grip on her behavior. Wisely, she takes the help of the kind people around her to accept her life and move onward into the future.


Joan Marshall is the teacher-librarian and enrichment facilitator at Henry G. Izatt Middle School in Winnipeg, Manitoba.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364