A couple of weeks ago, I was on Facebook and noticed a message in a friends timeline that referenced someone named Bonnie-Sue who had a connection to salmon and Alaska. I knew there was no way that this Bonnie-Sue could be the same Bonnie-Sue I met at ALA. We met at that fantastic dinner at The Waterbar where guests were introduced to three YA debut novelists in a panel hosted by David Levithan. You can revisit my post about that evening here.
It turns out it was the same Bonnie-Sue.
Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock was my friend Sandy’s college roommate. She is also the author of The Smell of Other People’s Houses, which is scheduled to be released in February 2016.
Bonnie-Sue sat next to me through one course of the dinner and we had a great chat about Portland and a somewhat funny discussion about my poor sense of smell and the fact that San Francisco smelled of marijuana and urine to my not so sensitive nose. Little did we know then that we had Sandy in common.
I just finished reading the galley of her book, a debut I can talk about because it will be released after my Morris tenure is over.
It is heartbreakingly beautiful, the intertwining stories of four teens with difficult lives. The content is mature, without being graphic, and the stories feel real. The prose is spare but beautiful, in the same way that the Alaskan landscape can seem wide open and empty, even as it teems with life.
Publisher’s Summary: In Alaska, 1970, being a teenager here isn’t like being a teenager anywhere else. This deeply moving and authentic debut is for fans of Rainbow Rowell, Louise Erdrich, Sherman Alexie, and Benjamin Alire Saenz. Intertwining stories of love, tragedy, wild luck, and salvation on the edge of America’s Last Frontier introduce a writer of rare talent.
Ruth has a secret that she can’t hide forever. Dora wonders if she can ever truly escape where she comes from, even when good luck strikes. Alyce is trying to reconcile her desire to dance, with the life she’s always known on her family’s fishing boat. Hank and his brothers decide it’s safer to run away than to stay home—until one of them ends up in terrible danger.
Four very different lives are about to become entangled. This unforgettable book is about people who try to save each other—and how sometimes, when they least expect it, they succeed.
I have no idea what the 2017 Morris committee will think of this novel, but I hope they give it some serious consideration.