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Upstream Paperback – November 14, 2006
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From School Library Journal
Starred Review. Grade 7 Up-Martha's boyfriend dies in the Alaskan bush the summer before her senior year. In school, she can see the pity in her classmates' eyes. Old women in town pat her on the hand. Her loving, unconventional mother and sisters use humor and affection to help her cope. Katherine, a 28-year-old Californian, buys the movie theater where Martha works, and the teen is thrilled to meet someone who doesn't know about her tragedy. Their friendship, her family's support, and the sensual pleasures and hardships of Alaskan life move the plot along as Martha struggles to reconcile her loss. In the opening sequence, she breaks into Steven's abandoned house and tries to conjure him up from the smells. Her numb sadness is palpable and sets the mood for the story. The novel is gracefully paced by the teen's fragile, careful account of his persona, their love, and the impossibly painful circumstances of his death. Though some early dialogue is cloying, the characters quickly bloom through conversation. Martha banters with her 16-year-old sister as if they were two parts of a whole. She and Katherine dish and divulge with mutual respect. When Martha quotes Steven, his charm, humor, and kindness are vivid and heartbreaking-she brings him uncannily back to life. Lion's imagery occasionally seems studied, but more often her descriptions, especially of emotion or moment, are resonant and truthful. Recommend this novel to savvy reluctant readers; it is an emotionally complex story told clearly, poignantly, and economically.-Johanna Lewis, New York Public Library
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Gr. 9-12. The author of Swollen (2004) offers another subtly drawn, melancholy novel about a teen's acute heartache. In Homer, Alaska, Martha (Marty) has spent the summer before her senior year grieving for her boyfriend, Steven, who was killed in a camping accident. Her strong, devoted younger sisters and mother offer support (her father, who works for the Coast Guard, only passes through occasionally), and she finds a nurturing friend in Katherine, a recently arrived Californian who buys the movie theater where Marty works. Still, Marty remains haunted by her secret guilt over the truth about Steven's death. There's a slightly manipulative, teasing quality in the slow unveiling of the tragic facts. Nevertheless, Lion writes with sensitivity and depth about a girl struggling with weighty secrets and true love lost, and she effectively juxtaposes Marty's grief with lyrical descriptions of the shifting Alaskan light and the strength Marty draws from the beauty and wildness of the natural world. Teens will want to discuss the morally complex conclusion, which raises questions about accidents, crime, and punishment. Gillian Engberg
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top customer reviews
Slowly, over the course of the novel, Marty reveals the details of what happened. UPSTREAM, though, is less the story of Steven's mysterious death than of Marty's healing. She begins her senior year of high school withdrawn, avoiding the stares and whispers of the curious. Then she meets Katherine, a recently divorced 28-year-old who has just moved to town from California and bought the old movie theater where Marty works. It takes time for Marty to truly open up to her, but as their friendship deepens, she recognizes in Katherine a sadness similar to her own: "She misses someone. Maybe someone in her old life. Someone I'll never know."
Marty introduces the California girl to the rhythms and joys of Alaska life, such as the patience and strength needed for sockeye-salmon fishing, and the thrill of the hard-won catch. Katherine literally brings sunshine into Marty's world. She paints the dingy movie house walls a buttery yellow and organizes a beach movie marathon on the shortest day of the long Alaska winter. But as with Lion's first novel, SWOLLEN, these bright spots don't entirely eclipse the dark. There's no magical remedy for Marty's pain, and like the Alaska spring that brings just eight more minutes of light each day, Marty's recovery is incremental, and so natural, that she almost doesn't notice it.
UPSTREAM is firmly rooted in Marty's home state, so that the Alaska wilderness itself becomes another character: the two bull moose jousting in a meadow near where Marty takes Katherine fishing; the round red berries, Steven's favorite, that taste exactly like watermelon; the deep, cloudy blue of the river at Cooper Landing. "I'm grateful for the glaciers and the runoff and that I'll always be reminded of the color of his eyes," Marty says toward the end of the book. And as readers, we're grateful to Melissa Lion for sharing with us the beauty and the melancholy of Marty's world.
--- Reviewed by Carolyn Juris
Entertaining Read ........ Recommended ............. 4.5 stars
The narrative opens in a small Alaska with someone sneaking into the window. The house is empty. Marty lays her sleeping bag on the floor and lays down to sleep. The new school year will begin and Marty, Martha, will be facing it without her boy friend Steven. Marty, her sisters Gwen and Dottie live with their working Mom and sometime when home from the Coast Guard dad. Marty has had the summer to come to grips with Steven's death. School begins, a new owner for the movie theater where Marty works comes to town, life goes on. Then, Fish and Game begin to make noises about re opening the investigation into Steven's death. He was well versed in living in the wild and they are wondering how he and several more recent campers have come to be the victim of an accidental shooting. Winter melts into spring. Marty sends applications to colleges and faces the questions put to her by Fish and Game. Life goes on.
Writer Lion has wrought an appealing mystery certain to please the young adult market. Overflowing with exhilarating settings, a genuine conundrum and believably human characters Upstream is an engaging read. Writer Lion's adroitness for the human situation and her cloudless portrayal haul the reader right into the chronicle. Lion possesses a perception for the human inner self which she puts to skillful use to furnish a narrative filled with tingle, sentiment and coming of age. The reader is drawn into the tale from the opening lines as we accompany Marty into the now deserted home of her dead boy friend and that interest is held tight right down to the last page where we find Marty now grown up, finished with college and following her life dream.
Upstream is writer Lion's second work and is a commendable effort. That writer Lion has done her homework into people, activities, and tenor of youth is manifest as the anecdote unfolds. Lion uses occasional flash back type scene setting to explain what has led to Steven's demise. Brimming with a profusely fabricated chronicle, snappy, fulfilling conversations, in addition to a judiciously interwoven theme regarding a young woman coming to grips with life and herself Upstream is an agreeably composed work. Characters presented by writer Lion are creditable, discussion is acceptable as it serves to move the narrative along from beginning to end.
An indisputable winner for the target audience of young adult to adult aficionados of `slice of life' accounts. The well written account has ample action to satisfy readers. Upstream is an superb choice for the middle to high school level home sch0ol or public school libraries, home library shelf as well as gift book selection for readers ages 13 and up who possess good reading skills and have an enjoyment for a gripping tale well told. Oblique references to teenaged sexual activity will served to preclude some readers from enjoying the book.
Enjoyed the read, happy to recommend.
I received a hard back edition for review.
Reviewed by: molly martin
20+ years California classroom teacher
Genre: YA fiction
Author: Melissa Lion
Line/Publisher Wendy Lamb Books/Random House
Random House, 1745 Broadway Avenue of Americas NYC, NY
ISBN: 0 385 74643
Available : $15.95 Amazon
I thought that Upstream was an interesting read because it gave me a look into the daily life in a place I've never been. I would recommend this book to anyone who would like to try out a book that, while not challenging, moves past what one normally would read in a book. Melissa Lion gives readers the essential details that allow them to connect somewhat to the characters. Although the ending was the best possible for this book, I was still left "hanging" because all save one of the characters that the book closes on were introduced in the final chapter of the book. Other than this, the ending fit the book very well.
Reviewed by a student reviewer for Flamingnet Book Reviews
Preteen, teen, and young adult book reviews and recommendations