Fourteen-year-old Henry lives in a classic, been-in-the-family-for-generations Massachusetts house with his perfect mom, dad, sister, and uber-perfect older brother, Franklin. Henry’s life is, in a word, perfect. But while PERFECT is all very well and good, the one thing it doesn’t prepare you for is TROUBLE. One cold spring day, on Henry’s birthday no less, Franklin is struck by a car while out running and falls into a coma. The driver is a Cambodian classmate named Chay Chouan, and the accident serves as fuel to an already smoldering racist fire between the old New England families in Henry’s town and the immigrant Cambodian families who have begun to settle there. Bricks are thrown, harsh words are said, and Henry’s perfect world is turned upside down. His father never leaves the house, his mother barely speaks, and his sister refuses to set foot outside her bedroom. The only thing Henry knows will make him feel better is to make a pilgrimage to Mount Katahdin in Maine, a hiking trip he had planned with his brother. Henry does eventually make that climb. But how he ends up doing it with Chay and a wonderful canine character simply named “Black Dog,” by his side is a powerful, subtle story of ultimate sacrifices, surprising secrets, and hard-won forgiveness. By book’s end, Henry has painfully learned that perfection comes at a price, and trouble can lead to truth. Penned by the author of one of my top ten favorite books of 2007, this smart, literary character study/mystery is a book worth lingering over and quoting from. Whatever you do, don’t let the humdrum earth-tone cover dissuade you from digging into the crackin’ good story underneath.
Trouble by Gary D. Schmidt