While running away from home, Christina ends up on the Asia, a steamship that plies Lake Huron in this historical novel set in 1882.
An opening note tells readers the Asia sank, killing all onboard but two teens. True to the actual events, debut novelist Curtis leaves the only two survivors, white teenagers Christina and Daniel, on a lifeboat drifting far from shore. The gritty pair, hypothermic and starving, must work together to ensure their survival. The tale is told in Christina’s present-tense voice, but, especially during the disaster, Curtis’ authorial overuse of metaphors and similes (“I’m like a fat, frozen spider in my life preserver, scuttling frantically”) diminishes the immediacy of what should be a terrifying situation. Later, when Christina and Daniel are adrift and her mind wanders, the abundant flowery language is less jarring. Christina had left home after the death of her twin brother, primarily because she’s had trouble expressing her grief. The frightening events compound her misery, although they also eventually lead her to a better understanding of her loss, improving her ability to cope. After a couple of days, the pair is rescued by a First Nations couple who are depicted with respect; there is some additional information about their culture included in an author’s note, which identifies them as “likely Anishinaabeg.”
The historical events are limned with enough realism to sustain interest even if Christina never springs fully to life. (Historical fiction. 11-16)