Volume 17 Number 2
This is James Houston's nineteenth novel. Three of his previous works (Tikta'liktak (New York: Harcourt, Brace and World, 1965), The White Archer (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1 967, 1979), and River Runners ¹) won the Canadian Library Association's Book of the Year for Children Award. As well, Houston has twice won the Canadian Authors Association Vicky Metcalf Award (1977, 1981). In Whiteout Houston returns once more to his favourite subject, the north, and he has once again produced an engrossing tale.
In brief, Whiteout is the story of a city teenager in trouble with the law who is sent by his mother and the courts to live with his crusty old uncle at a Hudson's Bay Company outpost on Baffin Island. There he is to teach music and gain the respect of his uncle, who controls his inheritance. Befriended by the company clerk, he begins to develop ties with the Inuit, and his nightly music lessons soon become jam sessions for native music. Then a romance with a young Inuit begins, but nature intervenes and puts their very lives in peril. Their attempt to deal with an arctic white-out makes for a spellbinding tale.
Whiteout illustrates most of James Houston's strengths: a captivating story line, a realistic setting, believable characters, a very readable style, and a wealth of knowledge about his subject. If any fault is to be found with this novel, it might be the slow beginning and / or the logical but unsatisfying ending. However, as a work of juvenile fiction, it will find a wide audience in both Junior and senior high schools.
Clare A. Darby, Three Oaks S.H.S., Summerside, PEI.
¹ Reviewed vol. Vlll/2 Spring 1980, p.116.
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