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Avenging the Owl: 10/27/16

Avenging the Owl by Melissa Hart

In 1995 at the hight of the spotted owl crisis in Northern California and southern Oregon, Jean Craighead George wrote There's an Owl in the Shower about a logger who attempts to kill a spotted owl but ends up nursing it back to health despite his outrage over how the owls are disrupting his livelihood.

Avenging the Owl by Melissa Hart is in a sense an update. Solo Hahn and his family have moved to Eugene from Redondo Beach. His father is here for his health. He's here too to write the great American novel. To keep the family together, Solo and his mother have given up everything.

Solo still reeling from the move, now finds himself in trouble with the authorities. He was caring for a kitten and it was snatched up by a great horned owl. A punishment for his actions he's being forced to do community service at the local raptor rehabilitation center. The scenes most focused on Solo's rehabilitation through community service are the most realistic and the reason why I kept reading.

There are a few weak points in the side plots. First there is the neighboring family, and specifically a boy named Eric. Eric happens to have Downs Syndrome. For two thirds of the book Eric is written as any of the other characters in Solo's circle except that he speaks in short sentences. Then near the climax of the book, Eric's English takes a turn for the wonky, becoming oddly agrammatical.

The second is Solo's running internal monolog. Like Quinn in The Great American Whatever, Solo fancies himself a screenwriter. So all the "important" scenes are rendered as screenplay. In both cases these inserts are distracting and detract from the flow of the story.

Despite its flaws, it's still overall a well told story. It would work well in a classroom setting.

Four stars

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