Book Review: Lost on Brier Island, by Jo Ann Yhard
We've all heard don't judge a book by its cover, but Lost on Brier Island is the exception to this rule.
The cover art began with a photo taken by author Jo Ann Yhard on a visit to Brier Island in Nova Scotia's Bay of Fundy. It shows fog swirling above a grassy, sea-weedy bog, a weathered fishing shack perched on the rugged shore beside slippery black rocks. It's a scene Maritimers know well, a backdrop shared by many living in rural coastal areas and looking at it, you can almost smell the sea wrack.
Below the bog a whale glides by, his downturned mouth lending him an air of defiance. We learn this is Daredevil, a curious young humpback with a penchant for leaving the safety of his mother's side to explore and play in the North Atlantic.
Layered into the scene is a girl, staring into the distance with concern etched onto her face. Fourteen-year-old Alex, our protagonist, has been sent from Halifax to spend the summer with her Aunt Sophie on Brier Island where she will presumably get a reprieve from problems at home and work through her unspeakable grief.
The cover evokes the mood of the book perfectly. This story is not about a teenaged girl preoccupied with boys, Justin Bieber or her complexion. She is working through real pain, resisting the efforts of those in this tight-knit, fishing and whale-watching community to draw her out.
Alex's journey to understand and reconcile with recent events is appropriately difficult. No amount of homemade chowder or tea biscuits, or match-making, will do the trick – although they help. It takes both the closeness of family, friends and a whale – and the space they allow her to reflect and journey, for Alex to gain some necessary perspective and confidence.
The folks in this book are likable but not perfect, including Alex, who can be mean, selfish and cold to those around her. It made me like her all the more. Most importantly she and the other characters are believable, and I was transported directly into their curious island community, a place I visited once and which struck me then, as it did now, as a special and mysterious place.
Lost on Brier Island, from Nova Scotia's own Nimbus Publishing, builds gradually to a suspenseful ending that is somehow both imperfect yet just right. You'll know what I mean when you're finished. This book will appeal equally to the young and not-so-young adult reader, in which the kids are treated as multi-dimensional, real people. Please read it soon and leave a comment below if you are inclined.