Saturday, February 5, 2011

On the Volcano by James Nelson

Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons (division of Penguin)
Publish Date: April 14, 2011
ISBN: 978-0-399-25282-2
Pages: 288
Cover: Christian Fuenfhausen

I want to say right up front that I did enjoy this book. However. My thought is that this book is going to appeal to a couple of select groups – not that there is anything wrong with that – most books appeal to select groups, right? I think that if you like historical fiction, you’ll love it. The younger end of the YA group will also enjoy it and it is ‘safe’ for them to read. There’s a minor bit of violence here and there, but most things are alluded to instead of right in your face. It reminds me a bit of the old books like Little Women or Betsy and Tacey or even Eight Cousins, but with a little more oomph. That being said, let’s carry on.

On the Volcano is set in the 1870’s. What a great period in history! There were still unsettled areas in the United States and people brave enough to go off on their own got to live in beautiful, peaceful areas. Katie MacDonald is fifteen years old and has never strayed from home. She lives on the edge of a volcano in the forest with her father. Her mother died when she was young and she’s only ever seen two people. Can you imagine being fifteen and only having ever seen two people besides your dad?! One is a family friend, Dan and the other is a visiting nurse, Lorraine.

Katie has lots of adventures in just 288 pages and ofcourse she eventually meets some people, including a young man named Adam Summerfield. The story is sweet and nice and does indeed show what life must have been like in the 1870’s. I will say that at times it struck me as a YA harlequin romance, but maybe that’s just me.

There are a couple of things that bothered me about this one:
1) Lorraine stays for months at a time. We are told there are two bedrooms – Father’s and Katie’s. Where the heck does Lorraine sleep? At one point her father refers to ‘our bed’. Wouldn’t a young girl question that? Won’t readers question that? I was a bit confused and went back to see if I had missed something. Then I decided that Father and Lorraine were sharing the room and no one was going to mention it.
2) In over fifteen years no one at all but Lorraine and Dan ever found the cabin, even accidentally? But suddenly several people find them and/or the cabin? If people were hunting and gathering, it seems that eventually someone would have run into them.
3) At times Katie seemed very young in the way she talked and thought. I’m putting this down to the fact that she must have been very sheltered, not seeing anyone or going anywhere. However, there are times that she seems very mature and knowledgeable, so I was confused. Sometimes she seemed to act like an adult and sometimes like a little girl. I decided to chalk it up to the fact that she is so sheltered yet knows how to survive in the wilderness.

I do think that this is a worthwhile read, the historical information is good and it does take you back to a simpler, quieter time.

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