ON THE VOLCANO by James Nelson


Age Range: 12 & up
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It’s 1871, and 16-year-old Katie’s widowed father, Jack, has raised her all alone on the slopes of a volcano in the Pacific Northwest. When Katie finally convinces Jack to take her into the town of Badwater, he forces her to dress like a boy and act like a mute. However, she is discovered to be a girl and manages to attract the attention of both town bully Jess Starkey and handsome deputy-in-training Adam Summerfield. When Jess follows the family back up the volcano and attempts to rape Katie, Jack kills him. Jess’ murder sets into motion a manhunt that results in three more dead and concludes with an earthquake, Katie’s marriage to Adam and an unsexy sex scene. Despite the body count and gritty frontier landscape, this is an oddly passionless tale; it is told in limp dialogue that conveys little sense of time period or setting. The author’s choice to set the story in a location that is recognizable as Mount St. Helens but use fictional place names also lessens the plot’s punch and robs the story of context. Katie’s first-person voice is less innocent than it is obvious, and Nelson’s simplistic prose tells far more than it shows. If you’re looking for True Grit, better keep riding. (Historical fiction. 12 & up)
Pub Date: April 1st, 2011
ISBN: 978-0-399-25282-2
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: Putnam
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15th, 2011