Review Detail

Young Adult Fiction 1298
Hell & High Water
Overall rating 
 
4.0
Plot 
 
4.0
Characters 
 
4.0
Writing Style 
 
4.0
HELL & HIGH WATER by Tanya Landman is a YA historical fiction novel that is filled with suspense and mystery. When Caleb finds a man washed up on shore who is wearing his father’s signet ring, he is told this man is merely a stranger. Caleb cannot argue further as the man’s face is distorted beyond recognition, but Caleb promises himself he will find the truth. Consequently, from this moment on, I start rooting both for and against Caleb. I want Caleb to prove himself to everyone due to how unfairly the naysayers treat him. However, at the same time, if Caleb does indeed succeed, then that means his father really is dead. In this latter scenario, Caleb loses more.

The author consistently puts the characters, and by default, the readers, in the middle of difficult situations. There is never an easy answer, which can be both tedious and frustrating. While the occasional Punch and Judy puppet show offers some comedic relief, if you are looking for a “feel good” novel, HELL & HIGH WATER may not be the book for you. However, if you enjoy stories about scrappy underdogs, this book could be a great match as Caleb has just about every odd against him. Caleb is introduced as a timid, fearsome boy, but gradually, as necessity requires it, he finds his courage. He is a dynamic character, who, along with Letty, challenges race relations and gender norms in the 1750’s.

There are a few moments in this book, such as Caleb being the one to conveniently find the man’s body, that feel contrived. Such coincidences take away from the credibility of the story, despite understanding that it is a work of fiction. However, with some suspension of disbelief, HELL & HIGH WATER is still a captivating read that gives small glimpses into other ways of life.
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