Form and Content

(Survey of Young Adult Fiction)

Unlike many authors who deal with the subject of teen suicide, Patricia Calvert downplays the events leading up to the suicide attempt and focuses her attention on the healing process as Jake Matthiesen learns to accept himself and take responsibility for his life. Unable to talk to his father, a successful Minneapolis lawyer who Jake claims is a living legend, and convinced he cannot be the kind of son who would make his father proud, Jake attempts suicide with his great-grandfather’s old pistol, which he finds in the attic. Jake’s father decides that the suicide attempt resulted from a combination of the pressures of living in a large metropolitan area and association with the wrong companions. After Jake’s recovery from his wound, his father sends him to live with Dr. Win Smalley in Anchorage, Alaska, where he hopes that Jake will learn self-sufficiency or, as Jake believes, become a son of which his father could be proud. Leaving his successful father, his high-society mother, and his preppy sister, Jake continues to be haunted by self-doubt when he first arrives in Alaska.

Jake’s life takes on a positive quality when he is befriended by Danny Yumiat, a popular Athabascan student who seems to be everything Jake would like to be. Danny asks Jake to work as his dog handler while he prepares to run the Iditarod Dog Sled Race, a 1,049-mile race from Anchorage to Nome. Before he can run the race, however, Danny dies in an apparent accident when he and one of his dogs fall through a...

(The entire section is 613 words.)