Tuesday, January 09, 2007


Book: Backwater
Author: Joan Bauer
Published: 1999

Ivy Breedlove feels like she’s fighting a losing battle. All of her family are lawyers, and it's expected that she will be one too. But nobody's stopped to ask what she wants. She doesn't want a courtroom in her future, a career of arguing and debating and being on the stage. She wants to be a historian, one who observes and records and thinks about the past. But good luck convincing her strong-willed father that it’s a respectable career for a Breedlove.

Then Ivy discovers that she's not the only freak in this family. There's another--her father's crazy sister, who lives in the mountains, by herself, away from civilization. This is the key, she realizes. If she gets to know this mysterious aunt, to understand the strength that allows her to be different from the rest of her family, Ivy may find the same strength in herself.

But what will Ivy do if Aunt Josephine doesn’t have all the answers?

Except for Ivy’s wilderness guide, Mountain Mama, who is more caricature than character, I really like Bauer’s characterization. Ivy’s father isn’t just an ogre, but a man with his own layers and reasons, which Ivy discovers through Josephine’s memories of the past. Check out this book for a quick but not shallow story about what it takes to swim against the tide of family tradition.

Added bonus: while it's not laff-out-loud funny, there is a sly wit to this story that pops up at unexpected times, which works nicely to deflate Ivy’s teen angst.

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