Vanderpool, C. (2013). Navigating Early. NY: Random House
Free ARC received through NetGalley -- Thanks, Random House! Release date January 8, 2013
QuickNEasy, 315 pages, ages 10-14 (though older kids will enjoy it)
I gave this book 5 out of 5 stars on Goodreads
OUTSTANDING. This is the best book I've read in a while, and I've been reading a whole lotta books lately. John is the narrator and main character of the book, but who really steals the show is Early, who could be the younger brother of Owen Meany -- or even Owen Meany himself. These two characters are richly created and their voices are authentic, perfectly fitting for young teenaged boys. They are flighty -- but also deep -- and most of all REAL. They are imaginative and surprising and Early was absolutely fascinating with his quirks and perspectives. He clearly is a genius, but he's awkward and thinks waaaay outside the box. Probably Asberger's, but I appreciate that Vanderpool didn't try to label him as anything but unique.
John and Early are each dealing with loss, and since John is narrating, we get to feel him work through his feelings towards his dad and his mom and struggle with a broad -- and completely understandable -- range of emotions. By story's end, John has reached new conclusions about his life circumstances, and the reader just wants to hug him for getting there so well.
Navigating Early is layers of story -- really, it's several stories within a story. This can often have disastrous results, but Vanderpool weaves the story perfectly so that everything connects, and no character is included by chance. There are parallels that readers will love and recognize at face value, but there are also parallels that require deeper thinking.
This is a stand alone book (whoo hoo!!!) that ties-up its loose ends, makes surprising and wonderful connections, and leaves the reader with plenty of thinkin' material.
Clean-O-Meter rating is a perfect 10. There is no vulgar language, sex, or sexual situations. There is mild violence (mostly suggested violence). Immature readers younger than 10 could be a little scared at a few different points.