Arctic Thunder: A Novel by R. Feagan
Feagan, Robert. Arctic Thunder: A Novel. Toronto: Dundurn Press, 2010. Print.
St. Albert is a small city, just north of Edmonton in Central Alberta. In the opening pages of this book, thirteen-year-old Mike Watson and his team, the St. Albert Rams, win the Alberta Bantam Provincial box lacrosse championship. Then his father, an RCMP officer, announces that they’ve been posted to Inuvik, which Mike describes as a place “somewhere inside the Arctic Circle and makes winter in St. Albert seem like summer”.
The author, Robert Feagan, who lives in St. Albert, but spent much of his youth in RCMP posts across the Canadian Western Arctic, does a good job of presenting the struggles of a thirteen year old boy from the South trying to fit into the largely Inuit and Dene community in Inuvik. The story is definitely told from the point of view of a “white kid from the South”, except that Mike is part Zulu, so he sort of looks like he might fit in.
Mike finds that teenagers are teenagers everywhere and when he goes to school he meets: the bully, the nerd whom everyone avoids and the super athletes, who in this case compete in the Arctic Games. There is even a beautiful female nemesis, Gwen, who is one of the best basketball players Mike has every encountered.
While well written and engaging, Feagan sometimes becomes a little didactic in educating the reader about the North. Characters occasionally launch into unnaturally detailed explanations about things northern.
Much of the tension between characters is also resolved too neatly. Most of the core characters acquire self-understanding, turn over new leaves, and apologize to each other within a very few pages. Much more realistic is the portrayal of the typical teenager, Mike, whispering a “Thank-you” to his Mom, long after she’s out of earshot.
Through the course of the book, Mike (and the reader) come to appreciate what Inuvik, with its single traffic light and one retail store, has to offer. Feagan works in a sensitive treatment of the role of the elders in the community and the healthy effects of living close to the land. Of course, lacrosse, which no one plays in Inuvik, is an important thread through the story.
Adult readers should not be put off by the fact that this is a young adult novel; it is a good Arctic read for anyone.
Highly recommended: 4 out of 4 stars
Reviewer: Sandy Campbell
Sandy is a Health Sciences Librarian at the University of Alberta, who has written hundreds of book reviews across many disciplines. Sandy thinks that sharing books with children is one of the greatest gifts anyone can give.