Northern Lights
Northern Lights
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Annotation: Reeling from the death of his father, Shane Stephenson travels to Holm, Minnesota, to find the mother who abandoned him as a teen, and befriends a group of outsiders who are similarly lost in different ways.
Catalog Number: #181878
Format: Publisher's Hardcover
No other formats available
Copyright Date: 2019
Edition Date: 2019
Pages: 256 pages
Availability: Available
New Title: Yes
ISBN: 1-501-19029-6
ISBN 13: 978-1-501-19029-2
Dewey: Fic
LCCN: 2018032240
Dimensions: 24 cm.
Subject Heading:
Friendship. Fiction.
Language: English
ALA Booklist
One of the first lines in Strom's powerful first novel is, "Are you a boy or a girl?" And from the moment we meet Shane Stephenson, we feel his confusion. Looking for his mother, Shane has gone to Holm, Minnesota, her last known address. She abandoned him years earlier after his father died and after Shane's guardian uncle threw him out to fend for himself. Shane is a survivor in more ways than one, as readers will discover. Now that he is about to start college, he wants to make amends and tell his mother he forgives her. Unfortunately, fate has other plans for him, most of them troubling and, ultimately, violent. Shane must come to terms with his past and his identity as a queer, androgynous teen living in a hostile environment. Though set in the pre-Trump Midwest, the characters and dead-end towns Strom portrays could easily be found now, and he has a sure hand as he addresses such timely issues as identity, sexism, prejudice, drug abuse, conformity, and community from a queer perspective.
Kirkus Reviews
In 1997, a Minnesota teenager searches for his mother amid the temptation of sex and drugs.Strom's debut novel follows Shane Stephenson, who's trying to find his mother following the sudden death of his father. Shane's mother abandoned them a long time ago, leaving her son a $100 bill and sending him a Christmas card with a return address in Holm, Minnesota. Shane has long hair and an androgynous appearance, and he clearly doesn't fit into the small town of Holm, where he's gone looking for his mother. The people there vilify homosexuality, and femininity is not welcome in anyone other than a woman. He quickly meets a group of teenagers that includes Jenny, J, Mary, Sven, and Russell. As it goes with teenagers, the members of the group engage in a series of romances. Sven stands out as the town bully, cruelly attacking Shane both verbally and physically every time he sees him, calling him "faggot" whenever he can, and organizing a parade with his friends dressed in traditional Klan attire holding Confederate flags and screaming for freedom and justice. Although Shane came to Holm with the specific goal of finding his mother, who turns out to have left just over a year ago, he quickly falls prey to the activities of bored teenagers in small towns: He starts up a drunken relationship with Russell, shoots up speed with J as often as he can, and deepens his relationship with Jenny between fixes. Strom paints a portrait of small-town life that is sure to make readers shiver. He sets up a narrative space in which a young boy is looking for his mother and quickly swerves, giving us death, alcohol, addiction, drugs, sex, bigotry, all wrapped up in the neat package that makes up Holm. Shane is heartbreaking, and readers will have a hard time parting with him after the book is over.A powerful depiction of the currency of intolerance and addiction in one small town.
Publishers Weekly
Strom-s challenging debut follows recent high school graduate Shane-s roundabout search for his mother. When his uncle kicks him out of the house in the summer of 1997, Shane goes looking for his mother, who abandoned him years before. He tracks her to the small, rust belt town of Holm, Minn., where the locals react suspiciously to his androgynous looks and long hair. He falls in with erratic drug dealer J and angry, spiteful Jenny, who introduce him to increasingly serious drugs. When not getting high with them, Shane incurs the unbidden wrath and terrifying threats of wannabe Klansman Sven Svenson and pursues a confusing sexual relationship with Russell, who only seeks Shane out when drunk. Despite Shane-s plans to leave Holm in the fall for college, he becomes attached. When he finally gets a lead on his mother-s whereabouts and leaves town to pursue it, Jenny-s desperate measures to help her drug-addled mother lead to horrifying consequences. Strom-s insightful navigation of family trauma, sexual identity, and small-town despair blends with his chilling depictions of drug abuse. This bleak, unsentimental novel will resonate with readers who like gritty coming-of-age tales. Agent: Adam Eaglin, Elyse Cheney Assoc. (Feb.)
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ALA Booklist (12/1/18)
Kirkus Reviews
Publishers Weekly
Reading Level: 9.0
Interest Level: 9+

A stunning debut novel set in the late 1990s as an androgynous youth arrives in small-town Minnesota, searching for the mother who abandoned him as a child.

On a clear morning in the summer of 1997, Shane Stephenson arrives in Holm, Minnesota, with only a few changes of clothes, an old Nintendo, and a few dollars to his name. Reeling from the death of his father, Shane wants to find the mother who abandoned him as an adolescent—hoping to reconnect, but also to better understand himself. Against the backdrop of Minnesota’s rugged wilderness, and a town littered with shuttered shops, graffiti, and crumbling infrastructure, Holm feels wild and dangerous.

Holm’s residents, too, are wary of outsiders, and Shane’s long blonde hair and androgynous looks draw attention from a violent and bigoted contingent in town, including the unhinged Sven Svenson. He is drawn in by a group of sympathetic friends in their teens and early twenties, all similarly lost and frequent drug users: the reckless, charming J and his girlfriend Mary; Jenny, a brilliant and beautiful artist who dreams of escaping Holm; and the mysterious loner Russell, with whom Shane, against his better judgment, feels a strange attraction. As Sven’s threats of violence escalate, Shane is forced to choose between his search for his mother, the first true friendships he’s ever had, and a desire to leave both his past and present behind entirely.

At its core, Northern Lights is the story of a son searching for his mother, and for a connection with her, dealing with issues of abandonment and forgiveness. But it also addresses the complications, tensions, and dysfunction that can exist in those relationships, presenting an unforgettable world and experience often overlooked, with a new kind of hero to admire.

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