Friday, October 12, 2012
Three Little Words by Sarah N. Harvey
Sixteen-year-old Sid barely remembers his birth mother and has no idea who his father was. Raised on an idyllic island by loving foster parents, Sid would be content to stay there forever, drawing, riding his bike, hanging out with his friend Chloe and helping out with Fariza, a newly arrived foster child. But when a stranger named Phil arrives on the island with disturbing news about his birth family - including a troubled younger brother - Sid leaves all that is familiar to help find the sibling he didn't know existed.
What he discovers is a family fractured by mental illness, but also united by strong bonds of love and compassion. As Sid searches for his brother, gets to know his grandmother, and worries about meeting his biological mother, he realizes that there will never be a simple answer to the question, Am I my brother's keeper?
Veteran Canadian writer Sarah N. Harvey writes on her website that some of the characters in Three Little Words were invited into this novel from her first piece of fiction (a work she says was not very good.) And I am glad they came over, whichever ones they are, because they have obviously made this one of the best books I have read this year.
Gentle, patient Sid was raised in the calm, loving world of Megan and Caleb on a fishing island in British Vancouver. He is also an artist who has been recording the world around him for years, filling up sketchbook after sketchbook. Megan and Caleb have been taking in foster children all Sid's life, but he has stayed the longest and considers them his parents, and they think of him as their son.
Fariza, 8, their newest foster child, a terrified and traumatized African Canadian child who refuses to speak to anyone. Sid knows he can ask what happened to her, but respects her too much to pry like that.
Gawain, or Wain, Sid's 13 year old stepbrother, whom he never knew existed, is part African Canadian, but unlike Fariza, he is very angry and very vocal about it.
Three Little Words is written in the third person from Sid's point of view, though sometimes the narrator gets a little omniscient and lets the readers know what is inside another character's head. I like the way, for all he is a good, kind, patient, gentle person, Sid still has mixed or negative feelings about his biological mother, her abandonment of him and being pulled back into her world. But, on a positive note, you can see the influence of Megan and Caleb in his actions and thoughts. He worries sometimes that maybe he could end up like his manic-depressive mother, and some of this novel does beg the question of nature or nurture.
I thought that the portrayal of the relationships within the triangle of wounded children is really what makes this such a good book, though. Harvey has captured Sid's mixed feelings what is happening, Fariza's fear of men and Wain's anger at the world and especially Side to the point of being palpable. But she has also captured the kind of compassion that makes healing possible.
One hint: the title, Three Little Words, weren't what I thought and probably not what you think either, but pay attention to the chapter titles.
This is a wonderful YA novel that is able to make a strong impact on the reader and I would highly recommend it to anyone who might enjoy a realistic contemporary novel.
This book is recommended for readers age 12+
This book was obtained from the publisher.