Solo’s dad walked away from a successful Hollywood career writing cartoons, traded the Corvette for a VW bus, and moved his family from their beachfront home to a trailer in Oregon, where Solo’s efforts to avenge his kitten’s death at the claws of an owl go horribly wrong.
Sentenced to community service at a facility rehabilitating injured birds of prey, Solo plots his escape. Eric, a neighbor with Down syndrome and a passion for bugs, is a nice kid but no substitute for Solo’s surfing buddies. Despite himself, Solo is drawn to the injured birds, even Artemis, a great horned owl who loves being sprayed with water from the hose. Solo’s boss and a senior volunteer reach out to Solo—his parents, not so much. Moving was supposed to give Solo’s dad space to write a novel drawing on his Japanese-American family’s internment during World War II—except he can’t write. Calamities mount. The VW bus breaks down, infuriating Solo’s anxious mom. Solo’s friends back home have found a replacement for him. A budding writer, Solo gains distance from stressful events by reframing and fashioning them into screenplays. There’s plenty to observe—birds aren’t the only creatures with wounds to tend and heal. The strong setting and well-drawn cast of complicated, evolving characters (Eric and his mother are standouts) overcome a tangle of subplots and a negligible high-concept premise.
A memorable read. (resources) (Fiction. 11-13)