Friday, December 27, 2013

Baygirl by Heather Smith: Book Review

Heather Smith 
Publisher: Orca Book Publishers, 2013
Reviewer: Sharon M. Himsl
Ages: 12 up, Young Adult, Contemporary
Pages: 288

Kitty Ryan (16) lives with her parents in Parsons Bay, a small fishing town in Newfoundland. Her father Phonse is a fisherman, and also an alcoholic. Kitty’s hatred of him overshadows any love or respect she may have ever had and she voices this with a snarly attitude. Mom barely copes. Kitty’s only real support is her grandmother Nan, Phonse’s mother, and good friend Anne-Marie. Without them, Kitty would be lost.
But life is about to change. Phonse loses his job, boat, and the family’s home when the government bans cod fishing in the area for two years. The family moves to a larger city (St. Johns) to live with Phonse’s brother Iggy, who is likewise unemployed and as a recent widower, quite depressed. Kitty moves into this hopeless situation with misgivings. Mom finds a job and Uncle Iggy tries to change, which helps, but Phonse continues to drink.
Further, Kitty must now attend a larger high school. Her first day there she is labeled “baygirl,” a derogatory reference to rural Parsons Bay. The only good thing about the school is Elliot, a boy she likes a lot and who apparently likes her. At home she also meets Mr. Adams, a crabby, wise-cracking neighbor. He hires her to clean his house, but it is more a ruse to drink tea with him and talk. He becomes a good friend and mentor.
Characters come together in a realistic way as Kitty slowly warms up to Phonse, who also attempts to change. Everything culminates when Nan becomes gravely ill and Phonse and Kitty arrive to help. Ending is sad, yet believable, and more is gained than lost. Well written overall, Baygirl’s best scenes include Kitty’s snarky dialogue, the romance with Elliot, Mr. Adams's snippets of advice, and poignant moments between Phonse and Kitty. Although Baygirl deals with the subject of alcoholism, I did not find this story depressing at all. Smith really shines in her characterizations, including the romance between Elliot and Kitty. Enjoyed Baygirl a lot.

 Copyright 2013 © Sharon M Himsl

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You could call me an eternal optimist, but I'm really just a dreamer. l believe in dream fulfillment, because 'sometimes' dreams come true. This is a blog about my journey as a writer and things that inspire and motivate me.