Book review: The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon

11564Trisha McFarland gets lost in the woods while on a six-mile hike in the Appalachians with her recently divorced mother and her angry older brother.

And that, folks,  sums up the plot of this tightly crafted, superb novel for young adults by Mr. King. In fact, I don’t think I even knew what “tightly crafted” meant until I read this novel. I am in awe. From the very first sentence he had my hooked: “The World had teeth and it could bite you with them anytime it wanted.”

It is so simple, so elegant: A little girl gets lost in the woods. As Trisha would say, “Yeah baby.”

But then how would she act? What would she be thinking? What would she do right? What would she do wrong? What would she encounter? From this small thread, Stephen King weaves a complicated, tense and yes, extremely creepy tale. Trisha McFarland is a kid whose parent just got divorced. Who’s brother is unhappy and acting out. Whose mother is preoccupied with getting them settled in a new place, with dealing with her older brother. Trisha’s face hurts from trying to be the family’s sole source of cheer and optimism. So when she lags behind on the hike and feels the urge to pee, she doesn’t have the energy to interrupt her mother and brother’s squabbling and simply ducks behind some tress. And then one bad decision leads to another. And they are all so plausible. You can see why she would choose to go one way instead of the other. Why she would try to keep going instead of sitting still and waiting to be rescued.

King uses Trisha’s love of baseball and her crush on player Tom Gordon as a structure for the novel. Each chapter is an inning.  The question is, will Trisha be able to “close” the game like her  Boston Red Sox hero? As time goes on and Trisha gets more and more lost, she must rely on her own inner strength to carry her through. But her inner strength isn’t incredible or fraught with mad skillz à la Katniss Everdeen. Trisha is a city girl and only has a bare bones knowledge of nature survival. But she is smart and she is feisty and she does want to live. So despite getting stung, falling down a cliff, drinking bad water and starving, despite the feeling that she is being constantly watched, she soldiers on.

Though there are no monsters in this book, no evil men bent on evil deeds, King still manages to make your adrenaline start pumping at every snap of the branch, at every shadow. You are so much in Trisha’s head that you see her fears come to life and jump out of the bushes claws at the ready, teeth salivating for your flesh.

I would recommend this book to anybody who loves a good yarn, but especially those young people who enjoy a thrilling survival story. If this story leaves you with anything it will leave you with this one truth:

Nature sure is scary.

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