Title: Talking to Alaska
Author: Anna Woltz
Major Themes: Epilepsy, Seizures, Service Dogs, Trauma
Synopsis: Sven, who has epilepsy, and Parker, whose family has just experienced great trauma, both start a new school together—will either of them ever fit in?
I keep looking for good Young Adult books, but I rarely find one that I can really recommend. It seems like most of them have a lot of romance, which I don’t consider appropriate for this age group, or are futuristic or dystopian, or something else that I don’t like. The description of Talking to Alaska sounded good, so I decided to check it out. By the time I finally got around to reading it, I had forgotten the description completely, and thought maybe it was nonfiction about someone’s trip to Alaska. That could hardly be farther from the reality!
Sven and Parker are both starting at a new school today. Parker has had a very hard summer, and she just wants to blend in and not be noticed. Sven, on the other hand, is desperate to be seen as someone other than the boy who has epilepsy. By the end of the first day, both are unhappy about the way it went—and Parker knows that Sven is the one who got her dog, Alaska, when she had to give him up.
Parker, in her desperation to have Alaska back, begins making midnight trips to Sven’s home. The two talk about the problems they each face, which feel insurmountable. Parker has to face life with a father who has withdrawn from everyone after the family endured terrible trauma. Sven has to face life knowing that at any moment he could fall down in a seizure—and he is stuck with a service dog, which he calls the “beast.” Parker, who loved Alaska dearly, can hardly bear the thought that her best friend now belongs to someone else. Then, Sven figures out who his midnight visitor is, and things really get complicated.
I really liked Talking to Alaska. I don’t remember reading a book before that portrayed epilepsy the way this one does. This book shows young people that everyone has peculiarities, and many people have trauma that makes them the way they are. I loved the way Alaska was described, and everything I learned about service dogs from this book. This is one that I would not hesitate to allow my middle-grade children to read. In fact, I may read it aloud sometime. I’m pleased to have found a Young Adult book that is worth reading!
I received a review copy of this book from NetGalley, and these are my honest thoughts about it.
WARNING: An armed robbery is described.
Listening Level—Ages 10 – 12
Reading Independently—Ages 10 – 12, 12 – 15