By Mary Haley
“A Far Journey,” by local author Tom Reppert, is a young adult novel that throws a modern teenager back in time to the Oregon trail. The young heroin, Paula Masters, is not a typical senior in high school. She is part of the elect, beautiful, popular and feared at school. At home, however, she deals with a disabled brother she adores, and parents so caught up in their own messy divorce that they use her missbehavior as one more tool against each other.
Her final defiant stunt in high school gets her suspended. She isn’t worried—her lawyer mother will get her off. But Paula’s world turns inside out when she faints and wakes up to find herself with a broken arm, wailing in pain, in the back of a covered wagon. Paula assumes that her parents have shipped her off to a tough love camp of reenactors, who are hell-bent on showing her how cushy her life is compared to the 1800s. This is where this book takes a wonderful turn as Paula slowly discovers this new life is all too real, and she must adapt to it or perish.
A young adult, or YA, novel is for ages 13 to early 20s. YA novels must have a character in that age range and deal with problems faced by mid and late teens. “The Far Journey” deals with one of the most important aspects of that age–belonging. It reads at adult reading level and it contains some sex. Paula, like many of her real life peers, is not a virgin, but the non-graphic sex is an important part of the plot and I personally wouldn’t worry about a 13-year-old reading it.
This book takes flight when Paula reaches the Oregon trail. She meets some very famous people, but in a realistic way. Her life is hard, and requires her to find pioneer strength within herself. As a reader I could taste the dust rising off the trail and feel the fear as Paula encounters the dangers on the trail. It doesn’t have a Disney ending. The story leaves the reader, like life does, wanting more.
This book is available at Vanderford’s in Sandpoint as well as an e-reader format, and as an audio book. Although it is a YA, anyone who loves history and smart character development will enjoy it.
Mary Haley is a local author of the grade-school fiction and author of “The Great Potato Murder.” For more book reviews visit her on her blog, ghostwriterreviews.blogspot.com.