In the Trees by Pauline Fisk
|In the Trees by Pauline Fisk|
|Reviewer: Jill Murphy|
|Summary: Absorbing story of gap years, comings-of-age and the different places we call home. Interesting and unusual, it's a welcome change from the genre fare filling the teen shelves. Recommended.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 352||Date: March 2010|
Since his mother died, Kid has been staying with Nadine and flipping burgers in a fast food joint after school. It's not an exciting life, but he isn't unhappy. And then Nadine gets a boyfriend and the flat gets rather cramped. And then a box of his mother's possessions arrives. Inside, he finds a photo of the father he's never met and a copy of his birth certificate, which tells him that his father comes from Belize. And suddenly, Kid makes a decision. He's going nowhere fast in London, so he's going to head out to Belize and find the man in the photo. He's on a plane within days.
Finding his dad isn't easy, however, and following a narrow escape in a rundown hotel, Kid joins up with some gap year volunteers who are helping with forest conservation. And for Kid, it proves to be the steepest learning curve of his life...
I enjoy anything Pauline Fisk writes and In the Trees was no exception. She has an easy style and never seems to try too hard. The result is always a comfortable and interesting read with a really distinctive voice. Fisk has opinions but she doesn't feel the need to tub thump or put clumsy words into the mouths of her characters and everything simply flows beautifully.
In the Trees is quite an unusual story. It's about gap years, but the central character isn't on a gap year. He doesn't come from that sort of home and at the outset in fact, Kid sees gap year students as spoiled brats. It's also about the search for a long-lost parent, but that search doesn't actually take up much of the book's forefront. I suppose what it is really is the oldest of stories - coming of age - told through these two threads.
Running counterpoint to the plot, the Belizean setting is beautifully described - from the poverty and begging of Belize City, through the dangerous but beautiful jungle scarified by deforestation, to life in a Kekchi-Mayan village. Fisk went to Belize to research this novel and she has brought back such a wealth of sights and sounds and cultural attitudes to put in it that you can almost feel it. For me, the country was the stand-out element of In the Trees.
I'm recommending this book, in case you hadn't guessed. It's original and fresh - a far cry from the floods of genre fiction filling the teen shelves in bookshops; it's well-written and interesting; it's by Pauline Fisk for heavens sakes! I think they'll like it.
My thanks to the nice people at Faber for sending the book.
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