by Eric Walters
It’s January of 2010. Joshua is 15, and has just had a falling out with God. His relationship with his dad isn’t great either, mostly because his dad moved him and his younger sister across Toronto to a new neighbourhood, school, and church right after their mom died. Worse still, his dad is a preacher, and there seems to be no end to the prayers and the Christian truisms he spouts, even though God clearly isn’t listening—if he was, Josh’s mom would still be alive. Now, on top of all that, Josh has to go with his dad and his sister on a mission to Haiti to help build an orphanage. He doesn’t want to make friends on this trip, but he has no choice but to band together with Philippe, a Haitian orphan, and a fellow missionary named Naomi after the earthquake hits and they have to journey to Port au Prince to find insulin for Naomi, who is diabetic. His father and sister were supposed to return with the insulin earlier, but a quarter of a million people perished in the quake, and they may be among them.
Walters tends to write in a genre I like to call “disaster capitalism”, exploiting the world’s tragedies for a story teachers will assign to high school students. Most irritatingly, the heroes and everyone they love always survive, and they learn an important first world lesson, which I think misrepresents how horrible it actually is for people in the real world who are affected by these things.
However, this book is a decent read. It has a pretty wide appeal, since it deals with a lot of Josh’s personal baggage—his relationship with his dad and his God—while focusing on disaster and heroic feats. It’s topical, but it isn’t so topical that it won’t be a good read years from now. It’s also Canadian, with references to Timmy’s, mediocre French education, and other little details.
A recommended resource for teachers who want to address current events, although the religious aspect may make it inappropriate in public schools.