Northwind -- a Middle School/YA novel taking a look at life in the Northern Ocean


Disclosure: I was sent a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

Today I am going to share a new middle school/young adult novel that takes a look at a different life than I am used to. It has been sitting on my shelf for awhile. When my life changed in April, I got behind reading my middle grades and young adult (as well as adult) books. This book is perfect for an Earth Day theme as well as just an adventure lover or explorer. It is Northwind by Gary Paulsen. It is recommended for ages 10 to 14.

From the Publisher:

This stunning New York Times Bestseller from the survival story master, set along a rugged coastline centuries ago, does for the ocean what Hatchet does for the woods, as it relates the story of a young person’s battle to stay alive against the odds, where the high seas meet a coastal wilderness.

When a deadly plague reaches the small fish camp where he lives, an orphan named Leif is forced to take to the water in a cedar canoe. He flees northward, following a wild, fjord-riven shore, navigating from one danger to the next, unsure of his destination. Yet the deeper into his journey he paddles, the closer he comes to his truest self as he connects to “the heartbeat of the ocean . . . the pulse of the sea.” With hints of Nordic mythology and an irresistible narrative pull, Northwind is Gary Paulsen at his captivating, adventuresome best.

From Me:

Now this is the second novel from Gary Paulsen I have reviewed. I will admit his novels are not my favorite genre, but I do like to share more than just what I love. Plus reading outside a favorite genre stretches one's mind. This one definitely stretched mine. Lief's life is unimaginable to me. At times I wondered if I would continue fighting to live given his circumstances. Paulsen even has Lief question it at times and Lief remembers good advice given to him by Old Carl. Old Carl seems to be the adult that was the closest thing to a parent Lief had in his life. Old Carl put Lief and Little Carl in the canoe and told them to head north as the adults were dying from a plague. He hoped the boys would escape the illness, but they do not. Little Carl dies from it. Lief however survives. He follows Old Carl's advice and heads north. It is just him in a little cedar canoe. He has a few tools and the knowledge he has gained from living in ships and fish camps. 

His life seems unbelievable, but Lief comes to realize that he is learning and loves learning about the world around him. He is discovering freedom for the first time as well. He witnesses amazing nature. The nature truly fascinates me. His journey also fascinated me. I wanted to keep reading and learn more about his discoveries and hard journey. The story is so interesting and almost unbelievable. I love that Lief tries to become one with nature and his surroundings. There is discussion of a bit of religion, but it is not a current day one.

I think this book would be an amazing one to have class discussions. There are so many parts to the story from Lief's orphan life to the amazing nature he experiences. It is truly an amazing book that many tweens and teens will love!