"Canadian author Cheryl Kaye Tardif has a winning combination in her young adult book Whale Song: A Novel. Against a vivid Vancouver Island backdrop she weaves together many effective elements: the native American spirit world, symbolism of the orca (killer whale), racism and bullying, and the tragedy and redemption that run through young Sarah's family.
Eleven-year-old Sarah Richardson moves from Wyoming to Vancouver Island in Canada where her marine biologist father has a new job. Sarah feels alienated, but she makes a new friend in her neighbor Goldie, a Nootka Indian whose grandmother introduces Sarah to the traditional stories of their tribe. Goldie's family tragically lost a son to drowning and the young Goldie believes that the orcas are a link to the spirit of her brother.
When Sarah's artist mother becomes gravely ill, things spin out of control; at the height of her pain Sarah develops a hysterical amnesia and loses both her parents. Years later, emotionally closed-off to everything that had been meaningful to her, she finally finds peace in the love that she had known on Vancouver Island.
The author tells the story in Sarah's voice, and the prose is plaintive and rich. At times you may be reminded of gothic romance:
"...I felt restless and uneasy. I somehow knew that my life would change the second we drove into those trees.
The foreshadowing of tragedy, the intense emotion, a mystery, the suggestion of supernatural elements, loved ones kept apart by a misunderstanding... all gothic elements. But WHALE SONG is decidedly contemporary in the issues faced by adolescents finding their way to adulthood. The values and outcomes are just what you'd want for family reading, and this book will be enjoyed by all ages.
Cheryl Kaye Tardif handles the good and bad of family life with a sure hand, and tells a story that sings; you will remember this award-winning book for a long, long time."
--Linda Bulger, 2009, Amazon Top 500 Reviewer