Avenging the Owl
For the first time in his life, Solo is labeled a troubled kid, an at-risk youth. He’d always gotten good grades, had good friends, and gotten along with his parents. He used to volunteer to read Reader’s Digest to old people at the retirement home next door, and his favorite thing in the whole wide world was to surf. He wrote screenplays for fun. But when his parents uproot him and move the family from California to backwoods Oregon, Solo starts to lose track of the person he was. Everything is upside down, and he finds himself dealing with things way beyond his understanding. He’s the new kid in town, and he’s got a bad reputation. The question is: What will he do next?
This is a story about staying true to yourself when things get tough. Solo has every reason to lash out, but he ultimately needs to find a way to cope. Avenging the Owl deals with the difficult issues of suicide and depression, but more than anything it captures the powerlessness of being a kid. It won’t be easy, but the wild beauty of Oregon, its cold, empty beaches and captivating wildlife, may be just what Solo and his family need to help them start over.
My first thought after reading a few chapters was, “this is a wonderfully weird book.” The characters as well as the setting captured my interest right away, but I still wasn’t certain where it was going, so it was a little bit of a slow start for me.
Once the story circled back and the events that brought Solo to Oregon were revealed, the pages started turning much faster. I enjoyed how the author chose to share Solo’s story in a careful and deliberate revelation of his past.
However, the important lessons taught between the lines are the true gems here. Solo’s friendship with Eric, his Down syndrome neighbor, teaches tolerance and shows young readers to stand up for those who can’t always stand up for themselves—and that sometimes kids like Eric can really surprise you.
As Solo struggles with his new situation and the confusion that comes with his parent’s sudden decision to turn his whole world upside down, will help children deal with their own similar circumstances.
And Solo’s journey to understand his father’s depression is an important lesson he and his parents must learn together as they learn to find healing and forgiveness.
With a cast of wonderful supporting characters—including the wildlife, Avenging the Owl will appeal to parents, teachers and children alike. I would even recommend this book as required reading in schools.