Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Revolver

Revolver
Marcus Sedgwick
Roaring Brook, 2009  201 pgs
Grades 8-Up
Historical Fiction/Adventure

Travel back to the wilds of arctic Alaska in the turn-of-the-century.  Our story begins in a small isolated cabin in 1910 with the death of Sig's father Einar, who has fallen through the ice.  Sig's sister, Anna, and stepmother, Nadya, go to town for help.  Meanwhile, as Sig waits in the cabin with the corpse of his father an unfamiliar, giant-sized man arrives.  Calling himself Wolff, the stranger points a gun in Sig's face demanding gold.  Sig's family lives simply and there is no gold to be had.  The story now alternates between the present show-down with Sig and Sig's father and Wolff and the events which happened eleven years earlier in Nome during the gold rush.   Eventually the story remains in the present, as Anna returns and the situation comes to a head.  Sig and Anna both try to put their hands on their father's only possession of value: a Colt Revolver.  Their late mother's sole possession, a bible, also comes into play.  Will Sig or Anna get to the gun in time?  And if so, will they have the courage to use it?  Did their father ever steal any gold in the first place?  And if so , where is it?  These and other questions will be answered by the conclusion of this nail-biting story.

Revolver is not your typical gold rush story for young people, with quirky characters and wacky adventures.  It portrays the grittiness and desperation of the time and place.  The arctic setting is a powerful presence throughout the book and is extremely important to the plot.  The writing is excellent and tight.  No extra characters are introduced and Sedgwick keeps to the matter at hand without bonus plot threads.  Themes, including the existence of God and the pros and cons of guns, are addressed, making teens think about these topics without providing easy answers or telling them how to feel.  Revolver will have you on the edge of your seat and the book becomes impossible to put down as the story unravels.  The violence is a little more hard-hitting than the almost comic book variety we typically see in teen literature and there are a few places that are a bit mature for younger readers (Anna almost is raped by Wolff).  A postscript leads readers to believe that Sig, now an old man, was encouraged to write the story himself, making the book feel credible to readers.  An author's note reveals that Sedgwick is from the UK (a gun-free country) and actually did his research in Sweden and Estonia.  At two-hundred pages the book is short enough for reluctant readers and the plot will especially appeal to boys.  Revolver is a slice of life from the Alaskan wilderness in days gone by with issues that are still pertinent today.

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