I received this book for free from the Publisher, Purchased. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.Sugaring Off by Gillian French
Narrator: Caitlin Davies
Published by Algonquin Young Readers, Hachette Audio on November 1, 2022
Genres: Young Adult
Length: 8 hours 44 minutes
Format: Audiobook, Hardcover
Source: Publisher, Purchased
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A dazzling and evocative novel about love and loss—with a dash of thrilling mystery—for fans of Mindy McGinnis and Courtney Summers.
Left partially deaf by an early childhood tragedy that ended in her father’s incarceration, seventeen-year-old Owl is now a tracker, an explorer, a wildlife enthusiast, and always her freest self while hiking the steep forested acres surrounding her aunt and uncle’s maple sugar farm, now her home. Owl and her aunt and uncle never speak of the brutal attack that brought her to them. On the day she confronts a stranger trespassing among the maples, Owl’s sheltered existence is blown wide open by Cody—the magnetic, dangerous young man hired to help with the sugaring off. Cody seems to see her, the real her, in a way no one else does. Together, they challenge each other, learn to question their preconceptions, and risk a romance their families are desperate to stop.
But when Owl learns that some part of Cody is compelled toward self-destruction, she must make a difficult decision about their relationship at the same time she’s grappling with her father’s recent release from prison. And when a seemingly motiveless local murder draws attention to Cody, Owl realizes that Cody is in far more serious trouble than anyone knows—and it’s followed him to her mountain.
I thought that this was very good. I admit that the cover of this book is what first captured my attention but once I realized that the main character was hearing impaired, I knew that I needed to read this book. This is a slower story that touches on Owl’s day-to-day life and some pretty big events that may have an impact on her life for a very long time.
Owl lives with her aunt and uncle since her father is in prison. They live in a very small rural town and run a maple syrup farm. They have always run the farm on their own so Owl is unhappy to learn that her uncle has hired a boy just a bit older than her to help out this year. They soon warm up to each other and develop a bond. The question is whether he is good for her. In addition to the romance, Owl is trying to decide if she wants to respond to her father’s attempts to communicate and learn how to best utilize the help from her ASL teacher at school.
This book deals with a lot of different things but that is usually the way that life works. I liked that Owl is a character with a disability but that it is just one aspect of who she is and doesn’t take over the whole story. I liked the connection that Owl made with Cody but I can’t say that I was a fan of the romance between them. The pace of the book does pick up at the end and there is a bit of a mystery to solve.
I listened to the audiobook and thought that Caitlin Davies did a fantastic job with the narration. I think that the slower pace of this story worked well on audio for me. I found the narrator’s voice to be very pleasant and had no problem listening to the book for hours at a time.
I would recommend this book to others. I loved being in Owl’s head as she dealt with all of the things going on in her life. I thought that the book did an excellent job of illustrating how someone with partial deafness might feel excluded in some situations. I would not hesitate to read more of this author’s work in the future.
I received a review copy of this book from Algonquin Young Readers and I purchased a copy of the audiobook.