Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Young Adult Book Review: 'Something to Hold' by Katherine Schlick Noe

Katherine Schlick Noe writes what she knows. Like Kitty, the protagonist of Something to Hold, Noe’s family lived at the Warm Springs Reservation in Central Oregon when she was a child, and she experienced many of the same things that Kitty does as a non-Indian student at a reservation school.

Kitty’s story rings true as she struggles to make friends with children whose culture is unfamiliar to her and is sometimes reviled by the outside community. Her family provides strong support, in spite of their frequent moves, due to her father’s job with the forest service.

Kitty provides a clear perspective on the racism and violence that occur both within the tribal school and in the larger community, and begins to question the injustices that she witnesses. This ingratiates her with some of the Indian students whose lives have been particularly difficult, but also puts her in danger from their abusers.

Noe does a good job of portraying the diversity within the Indian community at Warm Springs and paints a believable Northwestern landscape. The only flaw in the story is when two major crises occur on the same day and the children go from a police confrontation with a violent offender to being trapped in a Forest Service lookout during a major forest fire. This unlikely string of events leaves the reader wondering how the characters are able to emerge from the dual-trauma relatively unscathed.

Otherwise, Something to Hold presents a realistic picture of the complexities of life on an Indian Reservation in the Pacific Northwest, a perspective that is too often absent from most young adult literature.

Katherine Schlick Noe moved across the country every four years as a child, living on Indian reservations in Washington and Oregon and near Washington, D.C. She teaches in the Master in Teaching program and directs the Literacy for Special Needs graduate program at Seattle University.

Renée Vaillancourt McGrath has worked at Montana Public Radio as a program host since 2002. Her background is in librarianship and she currently works as a freelance editor, blogger, and website developer. Check out more of her book reviews at reneesreads.com.

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