CM . . .
. Volume XIII Number 9 . . . . December 22, 2006
Franklin Crabbe has reached a crossroad in his privileged 18-year-old life. Disillusioned by his parents’ material desires and empty affections, Crabbe (as he prefers to be called) decides it’s time to disappear from a world of hypocritical adults where he has no responsibilities, no worries, and, worst of all, no sense of self-determination Over several months, Crabbe stockpiles enough provisions to sustain himself in the bush for an extended period. One evening, after his parents return home from another party, Crabbe quietly loads one of the family cars with the canoe and several large packs and vanishes into the night. He heads north to a river he once visited with his father on their only camping trip together. With virtually no boating or survival skills, Crabbe is soon plunged over a large waterfall that would have been the end of him had he not been rescued by Mary. Through her, Crabbe comes to learn many things about himself and his place in the world and about this mysterious woman who has also run away to the forest.
From his mental spars with a hospital psychologist to his conversations with teachers, Crabbe is self-assured and almost cocky when interacting with adults. He sees his escape as freedom, although he doesn’t quite know what that means for him (“Strange how that word soon took on new and unexpected meaning.”) As he journeys deeper into the natural world, so too does he penetrate further into himself, beyond the protective façade of alcohol and attitude. What is revealed is a lonely, insecure young man who is uncertain what the future holds.
It’s been 20 years since William Bell brought Franklin Crabbe to the world of Young Adult literature, and yet, Crabbe’s story, largely set in the timeless Canadian wilderness, is still an authentic tale of self-discovery and coming-of-age that will resonate with older teens. As in other works from this genre, such as Harry Mazer’s Snowbound, nature is the equalizing force that pares the individual down to the soul before beginning the rebuilding, and in some cases, the healing process. As Crabbe eventually realizes, “you work with the environment, not against it.”
Despite a couple of abrupt scene transitions, the emphasis on dramatic action makes Crabbe a good choice both for read-aloud and for teens with an interest in survival stories.
Thom Knutson is the Youth Services Coordinator at Saskatoon Public Library in Saskatoon, SK.
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Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.