The following review of my forthcoming young-adult adventure novel Stowaway is from the June 2018 issue of Resource Links (“connecting classrooms, libraries and Canadian learning resources”), page 21. Release date August 2018 but available by pre-order now.
Dundurn Press, 2018. 197p. Gr. 7 up.
978-1-4597-4191-1. Paperback. $12.99
Stowaway is a novel that juxtaposes two very different worlds as they are experienced and lived by two teenagers. One teenager, Arturo, is a street kid from Guatemala, who has been forced to adapt to much hardship in his life, while the other, Owen, is a Canadian who has had it pretty easy in a remote B.C. town. Their chance acquaintance will develop early on over the dissimilarities of their upbringing and later on in a life and death struggle that unfolds along the Strait of Georgia coasts.
When Owen sneaks onto a yacht where Arturo works, things escalate very quickly into a dangerous situation where an illegal smuggling operation is taking place. The difference between the characters is then demonstrated, for Arturo initially seems submissive and not very headstrong while Owen is portrayed as a bold individual. We learn very quickly that Arturo’s timid behaviour is due to the abuse he suffers at the hand of “The Captain,” who is an over brooding slave driver, belittling and abusing Arturo at every turn. Owen, who is mechanically inclined, proves useful to the Captain’s operation and must use his wits to establish an escape plan.
The book is written in a first person narrative style which switches between the two main characters on a per chapter basis. While this literary device may allow the reader a good grasp of internal drives and emotion, it can get a bit confusing at times, considering both characters are sharing the same scenes and on the same side of the conflict. However, Pam Withers does manage to impart complexity and growth on her characters, for Arturo begins the book feeling very powerless at the hands of his
abusive master the Captain but eventually finds out that with the trust of a good friend, the obstacles he believed were insurmountable are soon overcome. Owen, on the other hand, is haunted by the death of his brother which he experienced first hand in a similar boat incident, thereby reliving it in some sense but improving his interpretation of it and helping him grieve.
The book should be appealing to young readers who are interested in fast paced action and does manage to shed light on the dark world of illegal immigration.