Reviews provided by Syndetics
Publishers Weekly Review
When her mother dies, Lara Ritchie must live with a father she barely remembers and his new family in the Australian outback. Coping with the death of a loved one is fairly common in YA fiction, but here Hathorn's commanding prose breathes new life into an old chestnut. In her adoptive home, Lara is greeted with open hostility from her stepmother and young siblings. Only her father loves her, and when he is called away on business, the girl must find comfort for her constant grief. As if in answer to her prayer, a handsome dog appears out of a storm, and immediately Lara senses a bond between them--a bond inextricably linked to memories of her mother and the aboriginal stories told at school. By weaving these colorful Koori legends and the strange beauty of the Australian wilderness into Lara's struggle, Hathorn deftly injects a sense of wonderment into this intense, very real story. Readers cannot help but be swept up in the action and emotion. Ages 12-up. (May) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
School Library Journal Review
Gr 6-9-- In her first novel, this Australian author weaves a captivating, poignant story of a girl's reckoning with her mother's death, her adjustments to a new family and lifestyle, her conflict with a bully, and her love of a ``magical'' dingo dog. After her free-spirited mother dies of cancer, Lara, 14, is warmly welcomed by her long-remarried father into his new family. Her stepsiblings accept her, but her stepmother remains aloof and critical. When Lara seeks emotional release on a hilltop during a storm, a majestic dog appears and becomes her solace, greeting her whenever she flees the turmoil of her daily life. She names him Thunderwith, but, in a dramatic climax, learns that he is really Rover, the bully's abused farm dog. Lara realizes that Thunderwith filled a void until she could accept the spiritual rather than the physical presence of her mother. Characters are deftly drawn, and the plot, enriched by aboriginal mystique, unfolds with ease. Powerful themes of self-realization, family, peer pressure, and nature emerge against a scenic backdrop of the remote Wallingat Forest in New South Wales. Readers will find much here to share and discuss and enjoy. --Gerry Larson, Chewning Junior High School, Durham, NC (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Gr. 7-10. After her mother's death, 15-year-old Lara is reunited with her father, whom she hasn't seen since her parents' divorce 13 years earlier. When they reach his home, a primitive home~stead carved from the rain forest in New South Wales, it is obvious that his wife, Gladwyn, bitterly resents Lara's arrival. Gladwyn's cold behavior is echoed by Lara's half-sister, Pearl, who goes out of her way to make Lara unhappy. Severe weather, backbreaking farm work, strained relations within the family, grief for her mother, and bullying at school nearly break Lara. One evening, seeking refuge in the hills near the farm, she finds a beautiful dingolike dog, whom she names Thunderwith. Night after night, she returns to the hills and to Thunderwith, who provides such comfort that she comes to believe her mother sent him to her. When Thunderwith is killed by Gowd Gadrey, the bully who has been harassing her, Lara's resolve shatters. She decides she must leave the farm, but in an emotionally charged scene, Gladwyn asks her to stay and explains why she has feared and resented her. The story's satisfying ending promises friendship and love. Hathorn has written a powerful story. Lara's distress at her mother's death, her rejection by Gladwyn, and her fear of Gowd Gadrey are painfully real. When Thunderwith dies, the reader feels as emotionally battered as Lara. Aboriginal dream-time tales, skillfully woven throughout the story, provide a welcome respite from the anguish. They will enchant the reader as much as they do Lara. ~--Chris Sherman
Horn Book Review
After her mother's death, fifteen-year-old Lara goes to live with her father. Two things make her life endurable: her discovery of a dingo dog who seems to come to her magically and becomes her beloved companion; and her relationship with an elderly aboriginal storyteller. A believable plot with a shattering climax and a satisfyingly realistic resolution. From HORN BOOK 1991, (c) Copyright 2010. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Kirkus Book Review
In her first YA novel, an Australian author vividly portrays present-day farmers in New South Wales's coastal rain forest. Lara has just lost her mother to cancer; a search by kindly neighbors turns up Dad, whom she barely remembers. The two quickly form a comfortable bond, but Dad's new wife, Gladwyn, and their four kids are less welcoming. Gladwyn's resentment borders on hatred; she declares openly that there's no room for Lara in the one-room shack where they live, eking out a meager living from a vegetable garden and hoping to make a profit on newly planted palm seedlings. Dad is gone on business, with almost no communication, for months; a neighbor who rides on Lara's school bus is a cruel bully. Grieving for her mother, Lara at first receives scant comfort except from Thunderwith, a dog she encounters in the hills. In time, she also makes friends with a sympathetic aboriginal storyteller, while her new siblings, one by one, come to love her. Even Gladwyn--revealed to have had a loveless upbringing that, added to relentless work and long separations from Dad, has left her stern and unyielding--finally comes around, but not until after Thunderwith's tragic death. The fine range of believable characters and authentic detail here make up for the several rough spots and loose ends: e.g., Dad's absence is inadequately explained, and the dog doesn't come to life enough to make Lara's attachment to him seem vital. Still, a well-written, absorbing debut. (Fiction. 12+)