From School Library Journal
Grade 7–9—While this is a companion to A Bridge to the Stars
(2007) and Shadows in the Twilight
(2008, both Delacorte), it is not necessary to have read those novels to understand the action and characters in this story. Joel, 14, is certain of two things: life gets more complicated over time, and winter always arrives unexpectedly. With the New Year approaching, he visits a graveyard to make three resolutions: to live to be 100 years old, to see the sea for the first time, and to see a naked woman. Enduring a winter night outside, trying to find a way to move away from his slowly decaying town, and seeking out the new shopkeeper's assistant are only a few incidents that follow. An awkward encounter with a classmate brings intense embarrassment, which is followed quickly by Joel's heralded heroic actions in an unrelated event. At times as spare and chilly as the Swedish winter, this book is an affecting portrayal of a young man's maturation and the difficulties of a troubled father-son relationship. Although the story is set in 1950s rural Sweden, readers will relate to Joel's mixed feelings about his father, his budding sexuality, and the fluidity of the humiliation and admiration that are bestowed upon Joel by his peers. Admittedly, the book's audience might be limited to mature and thoughtful readers who don't need constant action to keep the pages turning, but libraries that hold Mankell's related titles will want to add this one.—Jennifer Schultz, Fauquier County Public Library, Warrenton, VA
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Starred Review, Booklist, October 1, 2009:
"So honest about emotions, especially in a story filled with action"