________________ CM . . . . Volume XXIV Number 17 . . . . January 5, 2018


Winter Road. (Orca Currents).

Kristin Butcher.
Victoria, BC: Orca, 2018.
120 pp., pbk., pdf & epub, $9.95 (pbk.).
ISBN 978-1-4598-1550-6 (pbk.), ISBN 978-1-4598-1551-3 (pdf), ISBN 978-1-4598-1552-0 (epub).

Grades 6-9 / Ages 11-14.

Review by Allison Giggey.

** /4

Reviewed from Advance Reading Copy.



Since truckers keep crazy hours, truck stops are open twenty-four/seven. Food might not be served the whole time, but drivers can always gas up and have a shower. So there's usually a few tractor-trailers around. But when Mom and I pull off Highway 304 to have lunch with Harvey Dickinson, there are so many semis in the parking lot, you'd think we were at a trucking convention. The sun is shining, and despite the snow it feels more like May than March, so I leave my jacket in the truck.

Needless to say, the restaurant is packed. Harvey must've been watching for Mom, though, because as soon as we step inside, a guy at a booth across the room starts waving his arms like the started at the Indy 500.

I nudge Mom with my elbow and nod toward him. "Look's like you've still got it, Iron Maiden," I tease. "Or else that's your friend."

Winter Road tells the story of Kat Mullholland, who has just lost her father and has also recently been diagnosed with diabetes. Kat and her mother are each struggling to find a new normal in a life that sees her mother frequently on the road as a long-haul trucker. When Kat decides she has had enough of being left behind, she tags along on what turns out to be a very different journey than either of them anticipated.

      One of my favourite things about Orca titles is how often I end up learning things from them, and this novel is no exception. I started out with no knowledge of winter roads or big rig trucks. Butcher manages to pique the interest of the reader without over-explaining and overusing technical terminology. I actually ended up looking up a lot of things to satisfy my own curiosity, but it certainly wasn't necessary in order to understand the plot.

      In terms of the plot, Winter Road has a lot going on for such a short book: a loss of one parent, an attempt to repair a relationship with the other, a new disease diagnosis, a cross-country adventure, a work rivalry, and even a budding romance. That's a lot to cram into 120 pages, and I'm not sure justice is being done to all the storylines.

      I found it difficult to identify with the main character, Kat. I suspect that what the author was going for was a sort of tough, sharp protagonist whom readers will learn to love despite her flaws. Instead, Kat often comes off as ungrateful, insensitive, and even rude. I did, however, sympathize with her mother which makes me wonder if my distaste for Kat is more a factor of being closer to her mother's age than Kat's. For this reason, I think it would be valuable to read a teen's review of this same book.

      Overall, Winter Road is a simply written, interesting story that would be suitable for late elementary or junior high readers.

Recommended with Reservations.

Allison Giggey is the teacher-librarian at an intermediate school in Prince Edward Island.

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