Strangers

David A. Robert­son, 233 pgs, High­wa­ter Press, portage­and­main­press.com/high­wa­ter-press, 19.95

Broken Pencil - - Book Reviews -

In the in­agugu­ral edi­tion of his young adult tril­ogy, David A. Robert­son has crafted an ap­peal­ing nar­ra­tive de­spite its tech­ni­cal short­com­ings. Strangers tells a home­com­ing story. where 17-year-old Cole is forced to re­turn to Wounded Sky First Na­tion to face his past, his Indi­gene­ity, and all the re­la­tion­ships he left be­hind when his fam­ily fled town when he was only seven years old. This premise is ac­tu­ally the novel’s main stum­bling-point — Robert­son’s char­ac­ters seem to for­get that he was only seven years old the last time he set foot in Wounded Sky. Thus, Cole faces so­cial blame for aban­don­ing his com­mu­nity, a slew of ques­tions from “best friends” whom he hasn’t spo­ken with for 10 years, and least plau­si­bly, a jeal­ousy-filled bout of sex­ual ten­sion with Eva — the girl he’d struck up love with in grade 3, only to leave hang­ing af­ter a char­ac­ter-build­ing dis­as­ter. “I prom­ise I’ll never for­give you if you leave me,” were her words be­fore he left, an il­lus­tra­tive ex­am­ple of the bro­ken lo­gis­tics run­ning be­hind Strangers. Why would a sev­enyear-old say this? What choice did pread­o­les­cent Cole have to stay?

Most of the novel’s short­com­ings stem from lo­gis­ti­cal faults like these. Strangers is full of bad ex­po­si­tion and awk­ward di­a­logue, but — and this is the is­sue — I ac­tu­ally re­ally en­joyed the read.

Robert­son takes this moody nar­ra­tive fol­low­ing what he calls “the world’s first In­dige­nous su­per­hero” about as se­ri­ously as any YA novel has a right to be taken, and the fi­nal prod­uct — pre­dictable, flawed, and oc­ca­sion­ally cringe-in­duc­ing — lands on some re­ally sin­cere notes. I could list a hun­dred “bet­ter” nov­els than Strangers, but I won’t be look­ing for­ward to any of their se­quels the way I’m an­tic­i­pat­ing Strangers II & III. (Joel W. Vaughan)

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