A teen enters a challenging, multiday dog sled race to raise awareness of the incurable disease that’s blinded her sister and now claims her own sight.
To retain her independence, McKenna, 14, has hidden her deteriorating vision from her family, dropped extracurricular activities, and withdrawn from friends. Only 8-year-old Emma knows that McKenna, too, inherited Stargardt disease, a juvenile form of macular degeneration. (Both retain some peripheral vision.) Observing how parental conflicts, exacerbated by their mother’s overprotectiveness, have undermined Emma’s progress toward self-reliance, McKenna’s avoided disclosing her disability. She’s certain the knowledge would devastate her parents, but hiding vision loss is a risky strategy—especially on demanding, unfamiliar terrain, the route Canadian couriers once used to deliver mail by dog sled. An experienced musher—her (presumed white) Michigan family raises and trains sled dogs—McKenna hopes her skills can compensate. As the weather deteriorates, sighted competitors (the daughter of a famous musher and the descendent of a dog sled courier) also make dangerous mistakes. McKenna’s dread of losing her autonomy while her teen peers move toward independent adulthood resonates. Giving and accepting help, she confronts her own beliefs and fears about disability. Johnson’s mushing expertise pays off in a suspenseful plot laden with convincing details. The lively, crowded, chaotic world of dogs and mushers is memorably complemented by the silent, icy wilderness they race through.
A densely plotted, fast-moving, thematically rich tale set at the intersection of ability and disability. (author’s note) (Adventure. 10-14)