- ISBN-13: 9780763678425
- ISBN-10: 0763678422
- Publisher: Candlewick Press (MA)
- Publish Date: April 2017
- Page Count: 272
- Reading Level: Ages 16-UP
- Dimensions: 8.6 x 5.6 x 1.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2017-02-27
- Reviewer: Staff
A gritty and inspiring survival story, Peets final novel, completed by Rosoff after his death, has the stoic quality and soul of a Steinbeck tale. Set in the 1920s and early 30s, it traces the saga of Beck, a British youth born out of a tryst between his destitute mother and a visiting sailor from West Africa. After Becks mother dies just before his 11th birthday, he is brought to a dire and loveless orphanage. From there, he is shipped to Canada, where hes subjected to severe sexual abuse in an establishment run by the Christian Brotherhood, then sent to a farm where he is put in charge of livestock. Tired of being underfed and overworked, Beck runs off: his arduous travels coincide with an inner journey to understand where he fits in, and the kindnesses shown by bootleggers and an older woman of mixed Scottish and Siksika heritage lead him to draw conflicting conclusions about the world and its inhabitants. Harrowing but hopeful, its a memorable portrait of a boy struggling to love, be loved, and find his way against overwhelming odds. Ages 16up. (Apr.)
One foot in front of the other
Not since A Monster Calls, the novel Patrick Ness wrote based on a story idea from the late Siobhan Dowd, has a collaboration from two of my favorite authors felt so bittersweet. But Beck, Mal Peet’s posthumously published novel finished by his friend Meg Rosoff, comes close.
Rosoff is perhaps the perfect writer for the job; her sensitivity to language allows her to meld her narrative voice with Peet’s, and her prior work has shown her ease in writing introspective characters like the title character in Beck.
Born in 1908 in Liverpool to a prostitute mother and an unknown Ghanaian father, Beck becomes an orphan at a young age. What follows over his next two decades is violence, abuse, rejection and outright hatred—due in no small part to the color of his skin—interspersed with brief moments of acceptance and joy. Only when he meets an older woman—auspiciously named Grace—during a journey across Canada does Beck dare to hope for something resembling a future infused with love.
“Go on the way you’re facing until you can’t go no further” is the motto that keeps Beck walking in the face of adversity. Luckily for readers, Peet also kept writing in the face of illness and impending death, and his friend Rosoff carries on his legacy.