Gary H. Paterson
Hold Fast is a novel surrounded by death. It begins with the burial of Michael's parents, who have been killed in a car crash involving a drunken driver, and ends with his grandfather's death in sickness and old age. In between, we have the struggle of a fourteen-year-old boy to maintain his identity in a world of harshness, ignorance, and insensitivity. (p. 81)
Hold Fast is divided into three sections, each of which contains the motif of escape and return to reality by the hero. The first escape is simply a brief but meaningful run to the seashore during the burial of his parents; the second, also brief, is a running away from the circumstances concerning Michael's fight with a classmate. The third escape, more elaborate and adventurous, is a kind of initiation rite into young manhood and an assertion of pride in his heritage when he "borrows" a car and survives by his wits for two wintry days in the washroom of a deserted campsite. These three escapes have considerable character-building power and when Michael is faced with his grandfather's death, there is no running away: "In the cemetery I watched the casket go into the ground, and never once did I move from the spot where I stood."
Probably what one notices most readily about this novel is the style of the hero-narrator. His colourful, earthy, rhythmic idiom may jar at first, but then it settles into warm, colloquial undulation…. The diction is salted with four-letter words too well known to fourteen-year-olds but there is an occasional...
(The entire section is 638 words.)