Facing the Sun

Facing the Sun
written by Janice Lynn Mather
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2020
978-1-5344-0604-9 (hc) $23.99
978-1-5344-0606-3 (eBook) $11.99
for Grades 9 and up

Fiction | Friendship | Family | Mental Illness | Coming of Age | Community

“Ay!  Beach closed.” A guy in a baseball cap shouts these words at KeeKee and her friends and chases them off the beach, their beach. And so they discover that things are changing on Pinder Street. Developers are putting up a new hotel and soon a fence reinforces the fact that the beach that is so much a part of their home and lives is truly no longer “theirs.” While the community wrestles with this development, KeeKee, Nia, Faith and Eve each face challenges in their own lives: Eve’s father’s cancer diagnosis that her parents keep trying to hide from her; Nia’s desperation to attend a summer art camp and get away from her domineering mother; Faith’s mother’s mental illness that is getting worse and her father who is never around to help. Friends and families support one another, and also hurt and betray one another as they deal with private sufferings as well as the inevitable changes in their tight-knit community. Tragedies rock their lives and threaten to tear them apart but ultimately these four young women find their way back to the water and “Together, we stand where the land ends, and face the sun.”

Janice Lynn Mather has created a realistically nuanced exploration of family, friendship and community. Her prose is as lush and lovely as her Bahamian setting which is vividly rendered, both as a place and as a group of people. The characters and their relationships are complex and well-developed, believably flawed and sympathetic.  The secondary characters are similarly authentic and engaging, and help capture the sense of place in a very powerful way. The author successfully makes this a story of one small community facing change while also delving into the stories of each of the four girls who suffer guilt, grief and loss as they each make their own mistakes and discover truths about themselves and each other. A beautifully-crafted tale that will resonate with a wide range of readers.

Lisa Doucet is Co-Manager of Woozles in Halifax.

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