Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Book Review: ONE BOY, NO WATER by Lehua Parker

Nihui Shark Saga, Book 1
One of the great powers of reading has always been its ability to translate a reader to a different place. In the time before easy travel and mass communication, the only way a land-locked reader could visit the Pacific was in a book. Readers flocked to titles for their locations as much, if not more, than their stories. When a great location was fleshed out and the people there made real was combined with a ripping yarn that titillated the imagination, a classic was born. Those elements that made Treasure Island great have fallen out of fashion as writers can rely on shared knowledge.

But the formula still works and is as powerful as ever. Witness One Boy, No Water, by Lehua Parker. This gem of a book, young adult, is the embodiment of what location fiction can be. Taking place in Hawaii, the story follows the coming of age adventure of a rather unusual boy, Zadar, found as an infant on the lava rocks jutting into the sea where sharks are known to be.

Zadar is allergic to water. With his brother Jay and adopted family to help, he must face the school bullies, his strange history and his rare condition all while living on an island surrounded by death for him.

I loved this book. The story is gentle and endearing. The characters warm and sympathetic. The setting lush and hypnotic. No, it's more than that. The absolute strength in the book is the setting. Parker not only makes us feel the sand between our toes, smell the salt in the air, taste the mahi, but she also sits us beside the locals as family to share in their jokes and stories.

This is done by the use of "pidgin" the specific Hawaiian dialect spoken by the natives. Her language, dialog and description. is sung in the tilting cadences of the inhabitants, seeded with Hawaiian words and phrases. This measure of authenticity raises the adventure story to its own genre niche - Pacific Literature and is to my knowledge the only book of its kind.

After reading One Boy, No Water, I felt enriched on multiple levels, culturally as well as artistically. It is a short, but important book.

And there'll be more. The book ends open for the next book in the series which I understand is due out any time - One Shark, No Swim. Zadar's adventures will continue and I'm glad of that.

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