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Book Review

This coming-of-age adventure novel by Monique Polak is published by Orca Book Publishers and is written for kids ages 12 and up. The age range range reflects readability and not necessarily content appropriateness.

Positive Elements

Spiritual Content

Sexual Content

Violent Content

Crude or Profane Language

Drug and Alcohol Content

Other Negative Elements


Pro-social Content

Objectionable Content

Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

Fifteen-year-old Noah Thorpe is used to big city life with his mom in Montreal. When he spends a school term with his dad in the far northern part of Quebec, he feels out of place. It's clear that the native Inuits, including the kids at Noah's school where Dad teaches, distrust white outsiders. The landscape is a snow-covered wasteland, except for the few buildings that make up the town of George River. The Inuits have a taste for raw animal parts and entertain each other at gatherings by retelling old legends. Noah wonders how he'll survive the term. On top of it all, living with Dad is like bunking with a stranger.

Noah experiences his first brush with trouble when he takes Dad's dog for a run. The dog gets hit by a truck and nearly dies, and Noah and his dad receive some unorthodox treatment and advice from the natives. Noah wonders what sort of strange, heartless people he's living among. Dad tries to help him understand the natives' tough survival mentality by talking about the teens he works with outside the school. Many Inuit youths never finish high school and become addicted to drugs and alcohol. Dad, his friend Steve and others work with dropouts to help them develop life skills. Dad and his group are scheduled to take the teens snow camping that weekend, but Dad is afraid to leave his injured dog alone. He encourages Noah to join the rest of the group, even though he won't be going. While Noah has no desire to rough it in freezing conditions, it seems preferable to sitting home with Dad and the sick dog.

Noah and the crew trek for hours by dogsled. On the trip, Noah learns the ins and outs of ice fishing, eats raw animal liver and comes face to face with a polar bear. He also witnesses a fellow camper bleeding profusely after chopping off his own thumb and helps prevent a boy named Lenny from carrying out a suicide attempt. Amid these and other unexpected adventures, he hears the stories about how the white men nearly destroyed the Inuit people in brutal ways on several occasions. He begins to understand his new neighbors' skepticism of outsiders, and they begin to see they can't blame Noah for atrocities in which he had no part. As he bonds with his new friends, he starts to learn things he never knew about his dad. The students respect and admire Dad, and they tell Noah how lucky he is.

When Noah returns from snow camping, he is determined to embrace this new culture and develop a deeper relationship with Dad. He can't wait to go snow camping again.

Christian Beliefs

Fearing his dad's dog is about to be hit by a car, Noah says, "Please God, let her be OK." After she's injured, he whispers, "Don't let her die." He says it isn't exactly a prayer, but kind of. He doesn't press his palms together or go down on his knees, but he still hopes someone somewhere is listening.

Other Belief Systems

Inuits tell stories about legendary spirits. Noah mentions that in Montreal, Jehovah's Witnesses sometimes come to the door to sell religion on Saturday mornings.

Authority Roles

Dad is well-liked by his students. He demonstrates a compassionate spirit by teaching and living among the Inuits and volunteering with dropouts. He embraces the opportunity to grow closer to his son. Dad's friend Steve calmly takes charge when a boy accidentally chops off his finger on a camping trip when they are miles from the nearest hospital. Older Inuits carry a great deal of pain because of what white men put them through. A number of Inuit fathers are mentioned as being abusive or having abandoned their families due to alcoholism. Before he left the family, Lenny's dad used to beat him and burn him with cigarettes.


Friggin and freakin, butt, crap, suck, s---, h---, b--tard, a--hole, d--n and the Lord's name in vain appear. Noah uses the word d--k to refer to his male organ.

Noah provides details of seeing and hearing his dad's dog being hit by a car. He describes the bloody, injured dog on the road afterward. He makes a number of additional mentions of how disturbing it was to see the dog's body thrown into the air. While drunk, Lenny holds a loaded gun to his own head and considers shooting himself so he won't end up being like his father. When one of Noah's fellow campers chops off his thumb with an ax, blood spurts all over the tent. Noah finds the thumb and has to wrap it up so they can attempt to get it reattached. The bloody scene goes on for several pages. Noah learns about several ways the white men hurt the Inuits. White men killed all their dogs, then doused the dogs with gasoline and set them on fire. They also sent young Inuits to residential schools. The children were separated from their families and forbidden to speak their languages or learn their traditions. Many were abused or died.


Noah compares the body of his new classmate, Geraldine, to a girl at his old school. Her tight shirts drove him crazy. An old man tells about a legendary spirit creature that has a breast growing out of each cheek. Noah's classmate, Lenny, wisecracks that the creature couldn't get a job for the Playboy channel. The old man responds with humor, saying breast are nice but not when they grow where cheeks should be. Noah has a dream where Geraldine has a hairy brown nipple growing out of her cheek. When the campers hear a noise, Lenny suggests it could be the spirit creature wanting to show her t--ties. He uses the same word when he later says he thinks Noah would like to see Geraldine's. Noah kisses Geraldine, but she pushes him away. He later learns her older sister was impregnated by a white boy who abandoned her and the child. Dad's girlfriend has her own key to Dad's place, a fact that they initially hide from Noah.

Discussion Topics

Additional Comments/Notes

Alcohol: Inuit youths frequently become involved in drug and alcohol use and often drop out of high school. It is illegal to buy or sell alcohol in George River. The law was created to eliminate alcoholism, but people just get liquor elsewhere. Dad has Noah bring him a bunch of beer when he comes for the term. Noah takes some of Dad's beer when Dad's not around, figuring he will never miss it. Noah says it's no big deal in Montreal for 15-year-olds to drink, even thought it isn't legal until age 18. He talks about a beer buzz he got once that gave him the courage to put his arm around a girl he liked. He convinces himself that Dad owes him the beer since he transported it for him, and he says he's not going to feel guilty for taking it. On the camping trip, Noah takes out his stolen beer and shares it with fellow campers Tom and Lenny. They all get drunk. Noah says he feels like he's earned the beer, even if he is underage, because the last few days have been so intense.

_more-book-reviewsThis review is brought to you by Focus on the Family, a donor-based ministry. Book reviews cover the content, themes and worldviews of fiction books, not their literary merit, and equip parents to decide whether a book is appropriate for their children. A book's inclusion does not constitute an endorsement by Focus on the Family.

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