In Boochever’s debut middle-grade novel, a reluctant young girl coping with her parents’ breakup becomes part of the fishing community at Alaska’s Bristol Bay.
After her parents’ divorce, 13-year-old Zoey Morley left her home in Colorado to follow her mother and little brother to Anchorage, Alaska. Now, a year later, she still hasn’t heard from her father and must leave the city (and her best friend) to spend the summer at Bristol Bay, so that her mother’s boyfriend can make money transporting salmon in a rickety old Cessna plane. Despite Zoey’s anger at being uprooted again, and her unwillingness to accept Patrick as part of her family, she gradually begins to appreciate the rugged beauty of Bristol Bay and the hardworking people who earn their living fishing there. She starts to settle in when she meets Thomas Gamble, a native boy who lost his father in a tragic fishing accident. The Gambles give Zoey a job with Thomas, running setnets to catch salmon, and she hatches a plan to save enough money to fly to Colorado and find her father. However, after a horrific accident, she must reevaluate her relationship with Patrick and what it really means to be a family. Boochever suffuses her tale with the kind of vivid details only a longtime Alaskan could know, from her descriptions of the majestic landscape to the finer points of commercial salmon fishing. She has a gift for drawing readers in, and a penchant for bringing the details of character’s experiences to life, as in this description of Zoey cleaning up after her first fishing experience: “The bulky clothing felt even heavier and definitely stinkier as Zoey shrugged herself out of the grimy rubber pants and let them fall on the ground near the door.” At the same time, the book delivers scenes of action and suspense in a wholly realistic, organic way.
A wonderfully atmospheric debut.