Thursday, December 29, 2016

Rivers, Karen. Before We Go Extinct.

Rivers, Karen.  Before We Go Extinct.  Macmillan/Farrar Strauss       2016    252p    $17.99   ISBN 978-0-374-30240-5  hs  Realistic fiction  VG-BN     

The tragic loss of JC’s best friend in a fall from a skyscraper causes JC to withdraw.  Sharky, as JC is known by all, spends the summer with his father on an island off the coast of Vancouver where he has to find his voice and decide whether or not life without The King can ever be normal again.    JC’s nickname, Sharky, is a metaphor for someone who “kills” his best friend.  Sharky is just as confused as he is certain that he had a role in The King’s fall from a beam high off the ground.  Would The King commit suicide just because JC was caught hugging Daff, the third member of their group?  Karen Rivers writes about pain in such a way that all readers can relate to it whether or not they themselves have ever felt such loss or heartache.  In fact, Rivers has taken two universal dilemmas, the loss of a friend and the angst over relationships, and turned them into a descriptive work that engages older teen readers beautifully.  At times, her use of similes distracts the reader from the story line, but lovers of thought-provoking examples of figurative language who read intelligently will feel the pain of JC’s loss, the frustration at his inability to talk after the accident, and the growth of a redeeming relationship with a girl he meets at the island where he must spend his summer.  The list of supporting characters includes Daffodil Blue, the dynamic teen who loves both boys and who continues to text JC throughout his struggle to accept the King’s death; JC’s father, the country bumpkin type who accepts the challenge of helping his son when they have not had a stellar relationship; Kelby, the daughter of Dad’s girlfriend who is visiting the island during summer vacation; The King, who, although absent, has a story to tell which he does eloquently in a letter written to JC that JC sees after his death.  The symbolism is powerful, the theme is universal, and the struggle to find one’s voice after a tragedy is poignant.  Readers will appreciate Rivers’ writing.

With a violent death and one passing reference to physical relations between Sharky and Kelby, this book is best for readers at the high-school level and higher.  It is a noteworthy selection and deserves a place in a high-school library.

Summary:  JC finds his lost voice after death of best friend.

Friendship-Fiction, Suicide-Fiction                                                                --Martha Squaresky

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