THUNDERWITH by Libby Hathorn


Age Range: 12 & up
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 In her first YA novel, an Australian author vividly portrays present-day farmers in New South Wales's coastal rain forest. Lara has just lost her mother to cancer; a search by kindly neighbors turns up Dad, whom she barely remembers. The two quickly form a comfortable bond, but Dad's new wife, Gladwyn, and their four kids are less welcoming. Gladwyn's resentment borders on hatred; she declares openly that there's no room for Lara in the one-room shack where they live, eking out a meager living from a vegetable garden and hoping to make a profit on newly planted palm seedlings. Dad is gone on business, with almost no communication, for months; a neighbor who rides on Lara's school bus is a cruel bully. Grieving for her mother, Lara at first receives scant comfort except from Thunderwith, a dog she encounters in the hills. In time, she also makes friends with a sympathetic aboriginal storyteller, while her new siblings, one by one, come to love her. Even Gladwyn--revealed to have had a loveless upbringing that, added to relentless work and long separations from Dad, has left her stern and unyielding--finally comes around, but not until after Thunderwith's tragic death. The fine range of believable characters and authentic detail here make up for the several rough spots and loose ends: e.g., Dad's absence is inadequately explained, and the dog doesn't come to life enough to make Lara's attachment to him seem vital. Still, a well-written, absorbing debut. (Fiction. 12+)

Pub Date: May 1st, 1991
ISBN: 0-316-35034-6
Page count: 214pp
Publisher: Little, Brown
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15th, 1991


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