High school is rarely easy, especially for a tall, somewhat gangly Native American girl. Add a sprinkle of shyness, a dash of athletic prowess, an above-average IQ, and some bizarre history that places in the guardianship of her aunt. Then normal high school life is only an illusion.
Kai Tiva faces an uphill struggle until she runs into Riley Beth James, the extroverted class cutie, at the principal’s office. Riley shows up for a newspaper interview, while Kai is summoned for punching out a classmate.
Riley is the attractive girl-next-door-type whom everyone likes. Though a fairly good student, an emerging choral star, and wildly popular, she knows she’ll never live up to her older sister. She makes up for it with bravery, kindness, and a brash can-do attitude.
Their odd matchup is strengthened by curiosity, compassion, humor, and all the drama of typical teenage life. But their experiences go beyond the normal teen angst; theirs is compounded by a curious attraction to each other, and an emerging, insidious danger related to mysterious death of Kai’s father.
Their emerging friendship is tested as they navigate this risky challenge. But the powerful bond forged between them has existed through past lives. The outcome this time will affect the next generation of Kai’s people.
I ordered, and started reading a copy provided by NetGalley. If you haven't signed up at NetGalley, do it! Up front, in the book is a Disclaimer, presented in three parts. Let's start with the first part:
This novel is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to real people or places is unintended. The legends and Native American references are essentially fiction based on factual details.My comments: The first two lines are standard. But that last line... Is the author telling us that the legends in her book are fiction based on factual details? What does that mean? Is the author telling us that she's making up legends and presenting them in a way that we're to take as Native? But not?! Now the second part of the disclaimer:
The author regards the Lakota Sioux Nation with the utmost respect and admiration. Accordingly, a percent of the sales will be donated to a Standing Rock and Pine Ridge charity for the care of their children.My comments: If you read AICL regularly, you know that I view those kinds of statements as opportunistic. Authors who use them seem to be saying "Look at me! I'm a good and generous person!" Barrett may be a good and generous person, but does she have to broadcast that, in her book? What does she gain by doing that?
Years ago when I was a post-doc at the University of Illinois, a pro-mascot group sponsored an essay contest. The winner of their essay on why the UIUC mascot was a good thing wasn't going to win something, personally. Instead, a monetary sum would be given--in that person's name--to a women's shelter... at Pine Ridge... or... Oglala... I'm fuzzy on that detail. When the women's shelter learned about the topic of the essay, they rejected the money. They did not want to be used by that pro-mascot group. What charity, I wonder, is Barrett donating to? And, though "a percent of the sales" sounds great, the fact is that Barrett's cut of the sales of the book is likely going to be tiny. Sapphire is a small press.
And the last part of the Disclaimer is a doozy:
If fiction could come true, the souls of the warriors would return to help defend the land for future generations. Absent that, it falls to the neighbors and friends of the indigenous people to help preserve their heritage.
My comments: Come on, Barrett! COME ON, Sapphire!! "souls of the warriors" drips with romanticism and it reads as if there is nobody--right now--who is defending the land for future generations. And then, Barrett writes, if those warriors don't do it, then... "neighbors and friends" will have to help Native people "preserve" their heritage. Let me just say: I'm trying super hard not to be ultra snarky.
The first page is "In the Beginning..." There's a "White Crow Nation" gathered to sing the dawn. But a "fierce wind" in the west blows dust and cold and dark clouds. That fierce wind, Barrett tells us, is "the Black Crow" nation.
These two nations, she writes, represent the "Dark and Light sides of the Great Sioux nation" -- and they (of course) battle for control in a struggle that gets replayed with every generation, with new leaders... And, it continues into modern times when "clever medicine people" trick and manipulate others, to gain power.
My comments: Actually, I'm hanging my head. Dark and light? Manipulative medicine people? That's a new one. Most writers give us medicine people at the other end of the scale, but neither one is ok. Medicine people ought not be in children's books--especially those written by people who are not Native. There are things there that non-Native writers do not fully understand and should just stay away from.
Kai is at school. There's a bully named Zach who grabs Johnny Little Elk and calls him a "half-bred midget." Johnny yells "leave me alone" and Zach replies "What're you gonna do about it, call squaw momma?" Kai intervenes, and Zach calls her a "big ugly redskin." Kai gets in trouble for punching Zach. She meets Riley.
Dang! My NetGalley copy evaporated before I could finish reading the book. I saw enough, however, to say that I cannot recommend Barrett's The Dreamcatcher. That's the way NetGalley works. You get a copy for a short time. I couldn't stand this book. I stopped reading it. When I went back, it was gone.
It'd be great if it doesn't get published, at all, but I see it on Amazon already. It was apparently released on January 15 of 2017.
Bottom line: I do not recommend Barrett's The Dreamcatcher, published by Sapphire.