Sugaring Off

Algonquin. Nov. 2022. 352p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781643752709.
Gr 9 Up–Growing up in an isolated, small town is difficult at best, but for 17-year-old Owl, partially deaf as the result of her father’s abuse, it is the haven she needed to find safety and love. Adopted by her uncle Seth and his wife, Holly, Owl has healed with stories from Holly’s Passamaquoddy culture and Seth’s steady hand as they go about the business of farming maple syrup. Seth hires the grandson of their neighbor; Cody is the product of serial foster homes and is resistant to kindness, but Owl is charmed by his city ways and his pleasure in discovering the wilderness. As they work together, he slowly opens up to Owl and they begin a friendship that turns to more. Owl often feels at odds, not quite at home in either the deaf or hearing world. With the help of her deaf instructor, she begins to accept herself. When Cody’s past comes to claim him, Owl intervenes to help, placing herself and her loved ones in danger. Paced with the smoothness of flowing maple sugar, this book is to be savored. Each word has been chosen to describe the seasons both outside, and within each character. Themes of both sexuality and violence are included, but are relevant to the story. Holly begins to face her own disconnect of living between two worlds—her white home and the Passamaquoddy family she left long ago—and sets the stage to help Owl take her own first steps toward healing with her father.
VERDICT Recommended. Give to students who ponder, who like their action-adventure to be served with a careful build-up and on-the-edge-of-your-seat wilderness action.

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