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Upstream Hardcover – May 10, 2005

4.3 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

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
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From Booklist

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

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 12 and up
  • Grade Level: 7 and up
  • Hardcover: 160 pages
  • Publisher: Wendy Lamb Books; New title edition (May 10, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385908776
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385746434
  • ASIN: 0385746431
  • Product Dimensions: 5.6 x 0.6 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #5,110,078 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
From the opening paragraph of UPSTREAM, Melissa Lion's quietly powerful second novel, we know that Marty Powers's boyfriend, Steven, is gone. "I want to be with him, though I know he's not here," she tells us, climbing through the window of his family's deserted house in their tiny hometown of Homer, Alaska. We soon learn that he died over the summer, although we don't know how. Marty was with Steven that day, but she has kept the circumstances of his death shrouded from her family, her classmates and everyone else.

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.
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Format: Hardcover
Title: Upstream

Entertaining Read ........ Recommended ............. 4.5 stars

The Review

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.
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Format: Hardcover
Melissa Lion tells a very real story about an Alaskan girl named Marty in her senior year of high school whose joie de vivre is somewhat diminished by a summertime tragedy that has made the rest of her town uneasy and awkward around her. Marty feels trapped in her current life and unable to escape the judgments of her fellow villagers until she meets Catherine, a new arrival from California. Catherine encourages Marty to apply to college, to gather up her life, to start living again. Now all that remains to be seen is...will Marty allow herself to move on?

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


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