Review Blog

Sep 22 2011

Alaska by Sue Saliba

cover image

Penguin, 2011. ISBN 9780143206118.
(Age 15+) From blurb:
mia's heart made a sound that no one heard
except for mia
late one night when she woke from dreams into darkness.

ethan was asleep beside her, and em was a forest away.
outside it was night and dark and alaska.
the sky was upside down.

Mia has left behind an alcoholic mother to live with her sister Em in Alaska. Em had always been the older sister, the one who protected her and helped her to survive their single parent family. However when Mia arrives in Alaska, she finds that Em has new priorities, her domineering husband, Terrence and baby Christian. Beguiled by the beauty of the forest surrounding Em's house she spends much time there and it is there that she meets a young engineer, Ethan, who she feels she may love. But does she know what love is?
Saliba's prose is lyrical and sparse. The omission of capital letters for sentence beginnings and names was difficult for me at first, but no doubt teens will have no problems with that! Once I became used to that I found the writing wonderful. Indeed, the forest almost became a magical entity for me. With a few words, Saliba paints the glory of the forest landscape, the fascinating deer and the horror that it all might be defaced by the pipeline that a corporation wants to run through it.
Saliba  delves deeply in the lives and motivations of Mia and her sister Em. It is essentially a beautiful coming of age story as Mia comes to grips with the fact that her sister has grown away from her and that she too has responsibilities and challenges to face on her own. Ethan is a shadowy character and little is known about other secondary characters, leaving the readers to come to their own conclusions about them. This leads to a surprising conclusion.
Older readers will find much to think about in this book. The themes of coming of age, of responsibility, of compromise, and of protecting the environment will linger for a long time in the minds of thoughtful teens.
Pat Pledger

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