Melt by Ele Fountain
United by greed and self-interest. But not their own. A boy lives in a remote, snow-bound village with his elderly grandmother. Their traditional way of life is threatened by the changing snow and ice: it melts faster every year. When the sea-ice collapses while he is out hunting, he only just escapes with his life and is left stranded in the Arctic tundra. Meanwhile a girl is trying to adapt to another new school. Her father promises his new job at an oil company will mean they never have to move again, but not long after he starts, his behaviour becomes odd and secretive. When their fates take a drastic turn the girl's world collides with the boy's and they find themselves together in a desperate search for survival, and for the truth.
This story centres on two main characters: Bea (Beatrice) and Yutu (an Inuit boy). They are both around 13 years old but come from very different worlds. Bea is the daughter of a highly respected geologist and has spent most of her life moving around as her dad's job takes him to work around the world for various different oil companies, helping them to find the best places to find oil and drill for it safely. Yutu, on the other hand, has lived in the same place, a small village in the artic circle which is only accessible by plane or snowmobile (or boat in summer) for his whole life. Whilst Bea dreams of staying in one place and putting down roots Yutu dreams of escape and exploring the big wide world.
A twist of fate brings the two characters together in this exciting adventure story and they must depend on each other for survival. This story is engaging and exciting and was hard to put down. On e one level it is a fast paced adventure story that brings the artic to life on another level it is a story that comments on greed and the damage human beings are doing to the planet.
The way Yutu and the Inuit people are portrayed brings to life a subtle nostalgia for a way of life that has disappeared for most of humanity. They live in balance with nature and are careful to respect the natural world and not waste anything they take. Their world is out of balance however as climate change is setting in and affecting them. The seals are no longer to be found on the traditional hunting grounds as the water is too warm; polar bears venture closer to towns in the search of food now that it has become scarce. Climate change is never actually mentioned in the story and the environmental message is never stated obviously but is there to see. The way of life of these people is being damaged because of the changes to the environment.
I really enjoyed this story, it was fast paced and engaging. The characters of Bea and Yutu are easy to empathise with and the story presents a sense of danger and a mystery as Yutu attempts to help Bea to get home safely and hopefully save her father. I love a story with a message and although the environmental message in this story is subtle I think it is skilfully done. There is a sense of romanticism with the way Yutu's grandmother is portrayed-she represents the Inuit way of life that is being lost and this is in contrast to the oil company that Bea's dad works for who represent all that is wrong with our world-only caring about greed and power.
This is a great middle grade adventure with a bit of depth to it. It is what any readers of Ele Fountain would expect-a story that deals with sensitive issues with real care and compassion; encouraging empathy for the characters and their plight. It is due to be published in April 2021. You can preorder it now but if you do can you please consider getting it from an independent retailer. Authors get very little money per book and if you buy from one of the large online retailers like Amazon, they can get as little as 12p per book.
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