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Reviewed by:
  • Bringing the Boy Home
  • April Spisak
Nelson, N. A.; Bringing the Boy Home. HarperCollins, 2008; [224p] Library ed. ISBN 978-0-06-088699-8 $16.89 Trade ed. ISBN 978-0-06-088698-1 $15.99 Reviewed from galleys Ad Gr. 5-7

Tirio has always believed that he was cast out of his Amazonian tribe at a young age because of his deformed foot. Since then he has lived contentedly with his adoptive American mother, but as his thirteenth birthday approaches, he feels himself increasingly called back to his tribe, knowing that were he home, he would be embarking on a coming-of-age quest. Awaiting a forthcoming trip to the Amazon, Tirio begins plotting to escape from his mother and fulfill the challenge alone, thus proving to those who shunned him that he is strong, worthy, and part of the tribe. Tirio's narration alternates with that of Luka, another member of Tirio's Takunami tribe, who is readying himself for the same birthday quest. Ultimately, neither Tirio nor Luka completes the journey in the expected way: Luka is required to marry instead after his father suddenly dies, and Tirio is unable to make his way alone through the jungle because he is guided by an insistent voice in his head. In a clever twist, Luka's story, which seems to be concurrent with Tirio's, actually takes place years before, and it is only gradually revealed that the voice in Tirio's head (who announces himself as Tirio's father) is Luka. Unfortunately, the complex reasoning behind Tirio's tribal rejection is muddy, making the entire premise rather unconvincing. In addition, the mixture of authentic Amazonian plants, cultures, and rituals into what is ultimately a fictional tribe of people set in a mostly created jungle-scape suggests generic exoticism and would be less confusing if notes explained the difference between fact and fiction. In spite of the issues, Nelson presents two compelling coming-of-age stories, both of which feature protagonists who are memorable for their flaws as well as the ways in which they compensate for them. [End Page 487]



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