Monday, March 16, 2015

My Near-Death Adventures by Alison DeCamp

Often when you read juvenile historical fiction, especially if set in a particularly rough time in America's history, the protagonists are doing feats of daring do, fighting bad guys or dragons or both and emerging unscathed. In Alison DeCamp's My Near-Death-Adventures the young protagonist lives with his mom and is obsessed with being a "manly man" like the men he sees around him and like the men he reads about in books. The thing is, he isn't exactly a tough cookie.

Stan loves books, is afraid of critters and has a vivid imagination. He is not the most reliable narrator and he has a particularly strange quirk- he thinks out loud. This leads to some interesting conversations with some of the book's other characters.  Stan, more than anything wants to find his dad who left the family in strange circumstances which are not made clear.

Stan's grandmother persuades his mother to move with her to a logging camp for a few months and there we meet other members of the family and Stan tries to determine if any of the loggers are his dad. Stan's grandmother is a tough, no nonsense character but slowly he begins to see that she does love him even though she has a very stoic way of showing it.

 This is as much the story of an impressionable young man as it is a family drama and it is also the story of one woman who challenges the social mores of the time. Stan's mom although courted by several suitors is coy and will not allow herself to be swept off her feet easily.  Is there a happy ending to this book? That depends on what you would consider a happy ending. Let's just say that it depends on what you consider happy.

This is a cool yarn that is loosely based on DeCamp's family lore. I liked this book because it showed a young boy who is vulnerable and likeable at the same time. You can't help but root for him. I recommend this book for kids aged 9+.

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