Lisa Doucet Reviews Kate Story’s Urchin
Running the Goat Books & Broadsides
(Ages 14 & up)
Thirteen-year-old Dor has never felt like a girl. Despite her mother’s efforts to convince her to be more ladylike, Dor feels different.
She has never fit in with the other girls, who make her school days a source of misery. Her best and only friend is Clare Taylor, whose family lives just down the road. And Dor is secretly in love with her.
But, when the world-renowned Marconi arrives in St. John’s to install telegraph stations, an opportunity presents itself to Dor. Her reporter friend, Murph, believes that Marconi has an ulterior motive for his Newfoundland visit—something big. And he needs an errand boy to assist Marconi and act as a spy.
Dor convinces Murph to let her do it and, disguised as a boy, she gets to work with Marconi and his colleagues. But then her mother disappears, and Dor discovers that she has been taken by the fairies.
The fairies have their own reasons for wanting Marconi’s efforts at trans-Atlantic communication to fail. Suddenly things have become infinitely more complicated for Dor, who is determined to save her mother, but who fears that she will have to thwart Marconi’s plans in order to do so.
Evocative and atmospheric, this unique blend of history and fairy lore is utterly compelling. The prose is vivid and poetic with an almost melancholic undertone that brings the setting to life.
The author adroitly weaves elements of local history and folklore into the tale in a way that is fresh and fascinating. Dor believes herself to be an abomination, and her struggle to accept herself is sensitively depicted and deeply resonant today.
The family drama unfolds realistically, as does the tenuous romance between Dor and Clare, and all of these separate strands of story come together to create a single and satisfying whole.