Abby's Reviews > Trouble

Trouble by Gary D. Schmidt
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Jun 14, 10

bookshelves: teen, historical, problem-novel
Read in June, 2010

As a middle school student growing up with his loving, privileged family in a wealthy enclave of a small New England town, Henry has managed to keep far away from Trouble. But then his beloved older brother Franklin is gravely injured in a car accident, and Trouble comes calling: Henry's once-close family starts to disintegrate, and Henry decides to undertake a quite Trouble-some journey to climb Mt. Katahdin and fulfill an unspoken promise to his brother, during which his path crosses with the very person who sent Franklin to the emergency room -- a young Cambodian immigrant named Chay.

Schmidt clearly has a remarkable gift for descriptive language -- both Henry's small New England town and the Maine wilderness come to life instantly in vivid, gorgeous prose. He's also crafted a sympathetic, believable character in Henry, a smart, likeable boy on the cusp of adolescence struggling to come to terms with ugly truths about beloved family members and his own privilege while trying to prove who he is to his loved ones. But Schmidt relies far too often on contrived coincidences to carry his plot forward, and the story is sometimes burdened with overly simplistic, didactic messages about tolerance and small-mindedness in privileged communities. Furthermore, the one significant female character in the book, Henry's older sister Louisa, is an emotionally over-wrought, helpless cipher of a character who only seems to serve as a projection screen for the main male characters' needs and desires. She has no real voice, and no agency, and thus readers find it difficult to sympathize with her and the choices she makes when Trouble arrives in her home. Despite the gorgeous depictions of New England scenery, this book isn't really worth the Trouble.
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