Monday, December 6, 2010
Review of Northward to the Moon by Polly Horvath
Horvath, Polly. Northward to the Moon. Schwartz & Wade Books, 2010.
This is the sequel to My One Hundred Adventures, which was one of my favorite books of 2008. Jane is now 13 years old or so, and is at the tail-end of a so-so year up in Canada, where her step-dad Ned has just been fired from his job as a French teacher (it took the school almost an entire school year to figure out that Ned can't speak any French) and in general, no one is very happy.
Therefore, it's excellent timing when Ned gets a phone call from some folks he knew for a brief time 20 years ago, setting the family off on a road trip that leads them to a mysterious bag of money and then to Ned's mom's horse ranch in Nevada. After Ned's mom has an accident, a bunch of Ned's sisters descend upon the ranch as well, and soon Jane is happily surrounded by new and strange relatives - and one alluring, if elusive, ranch hand named Ben.
Although it starts out as a road trip novel, the real meat of the story occurs at the ranch and is mostly about the mysterious and ever-fascinating nature of people and relationships. There is the frustrating riddle of her sister Maya's depression, the intriguing puzzle of how Ned's family functions (or doesn't), and of course the engrossing question of what goes on in Ben's mind and heart - since Ben doesn't ever say a word to Jane or even seem to notice her, Jane's imagination has full rein in this case.
Some main characters stay in the background (like Jane's mom and her two little brothers), while others receive much avid attention, and I think this reflects who Jane herself is thinking about. For example, her feelings about her step-dad keep changing as she goes from feeling like his side-kick (because they both love adventures) to feeling patronized and belittled when Ned offhandedly reveals Jane's feelings to Ben - and so we hear lots about Ned. Ned's sisters and mother are mostly vividly portrayed, and of course Jane worries quite a bit about her difficult sister Maya.
Although this didn't resonate with me in the same strong way that My One Hundred Adventures did, the strong writing, the novel but not too offbeat situation, and the imperfect, cranky, unpredictable characters make this book a pleasure to read.
And though none of Jane's questions (most notably who her father is) get answered, no matter. There will be a third book, as the last two sentences make clear. Jubilation!
Posted by Eva M