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review SPOILER ALERT! 2014-02-04 22:07
Review: Totem
Totem - Jennifer Maruno

In Totem, an orphaned boy who has known nothing but the school he resides in finds himself transported through time and culture in the Pacific Northwest.


I wanted to be excited about the characters and the setting. But right from the start, I was very, very confused about the time period and plotting machinations. This could very well stem from my ignorance of the regional history, but then again, the target audience would be relatively ignorant of it, too, unless this book is perhaps somehow meant to accompany curriculum. From the mention of the motorboat, I deduced that the present parts of the story happened following the advent of the internal combustion  engine, and that was about it.


There were other small details that had me very puzzled. I thought wolves have yellow eyes, for example?


I waited pages and pages for the main character, Jonny Joe, to solidify, but he never did. The adventure in the story never really appeared--it seemed to peek its head around the corner when the boys initially escaped, but after that, I was really very bored. The lack of explanations at crucial points also hindered my appreciation and understanding of Jonny's journey.


**note: thank you to Dundurn and Netgally for providing me with a copy for review.



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review 2014-01-26 22:36
Totem - Jennifer Maruno

Totem by Jennifer Maruno is a story of a young orphan boy named Johnny who is raised in a school for Native American children on an island in the Pacific Northwest. Johnny often has visions and dreams of a wolf and an old Native American man and the people tell stories about him being delivered to the school by a wolf. He has caught the attention of Father Gregory who is hinted at being a pedophile though we do not actually see this happen. One day he and a newcomer named Ernie accompany said Father to the mainland to get some chickens, and runaway. They take refuge from the coming storm in a cave with old paintings on the walls and wake up a hundred years in the past. The rest of the story is about what happens there, the people Johnny and Ernie meet, the arrival of the ‘white men’, and their return to the original time period.

I could not help thinking, throughout this short book, that there was so much potential that went unrealized. The basic story line was there with the setting, time travel, Native American storytelling, dreams and a good cast of characters, but it left you wanting. Every event in the book seemed to be glossed over and the writing was very simple given the target age group of teens and YA. I found myself adding details to the book from my own knowledge of the Pacific Northwest (my family lives there) and Chinook Indians. I would love to recommend this book but without more meat on its bones, so to say, I would not.

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