February 17, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

Beck by Mal Peet with Meg Rosoff | SLJ Review

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redstarPEET, Mal with Meg Rosoff. Beck. 272p. Candlewick. Apr. 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780763678425.

YA-Peet-BeckGr 9 Up –This final novel from the deceased Peet, completed by Rosoff, is a not-quite-YA, not-quite-adult historical fiction story of hardship after hardship. Beck is a Liverpudlian orphan, the son of a white prostitute and an African sailor. Through no choice of his own, Beck is shipped off to Canada with several other orphans to work with the Catholic Brothers. After enduring physical and sexual abuse, Beck is sent to work on a family farm, then begins bootlegging whiskey among Windsor, Ontario, and Detroit, and eventually ends up on the ranch of a half Blackfoot woman named Grace. There is also a blind old wise Blackfoot woman (Grandma of Grace), who might feel like a familiar trope to some. There is a clear attempt to provide historical info from the Blackfoot perspective, and the Blackfoot characters are well-rounded. Readers are slowly and steadily taken through this bleak but beautifully written tale about surviving and finally finding grace. The book itself is incredibly ambitious, as was Rosoff’s task of finishing it. Beck is a passive character in his own life, but in the moments when he pushes himself to take action, readers will finally get some satisfaction. A heartbreaking, painful work that gives hope to the restorative power of true human connection. VERDICT Purchase where adult titles circulate well and the authors are popular.–Emily Moore, Camden County Library System, NJ

This review was published in the School Library Journal March 2017 issue.

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