I was introduced to an intriguing new novel via Twitter, the Traz by Eileen Schuh. The subject is Katrina, a 12-year old "brainiac," computer-whiz, proficient in physics, learned hunting and survival skills from her grandfather, meditation, self-care and herbology from her grandmother, grew up in a chaotic home with an alcoholic, unloving mother who fights constantly with her policeman husband. Gradually, Katrina experiences more and more loss - her grandfather, and then ultimately both her parents are killed in an auto accident, her mother driving under the influence. Katrina's left with a lot of money and nowhere to go. Already, through a boyfriend, she has made connections with unsavory characters, and is sought out by Shrug, leader of a biker gang called the Traz, who is in reality an undercover cop. Katrina accepts his protection. The duration of the novel takes place over a couple of years and seems to pace slowly but the total effect is like a fast motorcycle ride. The situation is riddled with ambiguity, particularly Katrina's apparent sophistication belying her young age, and what are the implications for her future being mixed up with this organization. Shrug alternately presents as protective and threatening, insisting on controlling the situation and carrying out the operation his way, and yet to what potential harm has he exposed Katrina? Most of the story is told through Katrina's perspective; we read what Shrug and others perceive that seems to contradict what she says and thinks and wonder what's unsaid, does she knowingly or unknowingly present a different reality from what she's claiming? She is protected and imprisoned in the biker compound, gathering herbs to make strange tea concoctions, hacking into computer networks for criminal ends. Finally, Shrug cannot protect Katrina from the awful truth about the murder of her ex-boyfriend that is initially presented ambiguously and dreamlike and is clarified near the end of the story. (Interestingly, the Sergeant is called "Kindle," maybe he starts the fire or you can read everything through him, a conduit for information, I don't know. ) Evidently this is the first of a series, igniting an appetite for the sequel. A study guide with moral questions for exploration and resources for students dealing with life issues follow the conclusion of the novel. I recommend this dark and compelling story.
(Cross posted to GoodReads and Amazon)