Booklist Review - Willa's New World

Reviewed by: John Peters

Gr. 5-8. A long wilderness journey puts an orphan on the road to independence in this absorbing debut, set in Canada around the turn of the nineteenth century. With her father and family dead, 15-year-old Willa becomes the ward of her grand-uncle, who quickly washes his hands of her, bribing a ship's captain to transport her to a trading post on Hudson's Bay. Cast rudely ashore, she escapes the clutches of Dyer, the post's brutal surgeon, and finds a friend in Misiwâpos, a Native American cook who has taken the name Amelia. As the first strong, self-reliant woman she has ever met, Amelia is a revelation to Willa, even more so after she reveals that she's been sent by her people to spy on the Europeans. Willa's re-education continues under Amelia's mother, Moon, an itinerant healer. Eventually, Willa learns to live in harmony with nature, and when the news come that Dyer has beeaten Amelia into a coma, Willa takes a spirit journey to her friend's bedside. Demers leaves nearly all danger and violence either off stage or allusive, and she romanticizes history, contrasting the noble natives and dirty, savage British with simplistic sharpness. But, Willa's painful sense of being cast utterly adrift is vivid, and readers will follow her journey of self discovery with great interest. 

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