Wednesday, June 16, 2004

Unseen Companion

Orenstein, Denise Gosliner. 2003. UNSEEN COMPANION. New York: HArperTempest. ISBN 0060520566 [Suggested Grade Levels 9-12]


The common denominator in the lives of four Alaskan teens is Dove Alexie, a sixteen-year-old “mixed-breed” boy who is arrested because he struck a white teacher. While he is the tragic glue that binds these four stories together, he is a peripheral figure in this tale. There is not one central figure in UNSEEN COMPANION, but four. Lorraine, who brings meals and notes to the prisoners and has an opinion on just about everything; Annette, the downtrodden daughter of the local minister, who struggles to fill the void in her family’s life created by their mother’s abandonment; and Thelma and Edgar, two Yup’ik teens abandoned to the frozen world that is white.

The change in narratives may seem confusing at first, but these are such distinctive characters that we soon get to know the nuance of their voices so well we can tell whose chapter it is by the time we are finished reading the first sentence. Denise Gosliner Orenstien’s use of regional vocabulary adds color to this chilly and bleak landscape. A glossary of terms is included in the endnotes. A tightly woven tale with colorful and memorable characters, UNSEEN COMPANION offers readers a story they will not soon forget.

This story could be a good place to begin a discussion on perceptions of self and others.

UNSEEN COMPANION could be used to talk about prejudices.


Other books about troubled teens:
Lisle, Janet Taylor. THE CRYING ROCKS. ISBN 068985319X
Randle, Kristen D. SLUMMING. ISBN 0060010223
Spinelli, Jerry. MANIAC MAGEE. ISBN 0316809063

By Marianne Follis

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