Cold Skin

( 2 )

Overview

A page-turning read about father-son relationships and the many ways of being a man. Eddie doesn't want to be in school; he wants to work in the mines. But his dad won't go down in the coal pits, and he won't let his sons go either. Nothing much happens in the town of Burruga, except for fights at the pub. Then one Friday night a girl is found dead by the river, and every man in town comes under suspicion. Eddie is drawn into secrets and a bitter struggle for revenge.

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Overview

A page-turning read about father-son relationships and the many ways of being a man. Eddie doesn't want to be in school; he wants to work in the mines. But his dad won't go down in the coal pits, and he won't let his sons go either. Nothing much happens in the town of Burruga, except for fights at the pub. Then one Friday night a girl is found dead by the river, and every man in town comes under suspicion. Eddie is drawn into secrets and a bitter struggle for revenge.

A teen's first love, sexual awakening, murder, cowardice, vengeance, and forgiveness . . . these are the powerful ingredients for Steven Herrick's gutsiest book yet. Herrick deftly reveals a cast of vivid characters in this USBBY Outstanding International Book, a chilling story of malice, power, and the courage to forgive.

Taylors Bend is named after a bloke who owned some of this valley a long time ago. Mr. Taylor lost his sons in the Great War, and all he had left was a few hundred head of sheep and the river that flooded his fields most winters. They say when his sons didn't come home, he tied himself to a tractor wheel and jumped into the water at the deepest part. No one could find his body, so they named this bend to remember him. … —FROM THE BOOK

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Editorial Reviews

VOYA - Lucy Schall
In this riveting novel in verse, nine authentic voices unravel a shocking murder in a post-World War II Australian mining town. The crime forces the citizens—even the burdened police sergeant and the wise, Our Town-type newspaper editor—to face their faults, fears, regrets, and desires. The body of a beautiful teenage girl is found on the beach. Her friend, the sensitive and physically strong Eddie, who would prefer to work in the mine rather than the classroom, suspects his abusive teacher, but he eventually discovers that his own father witnessed the crime. Haunted by cowardice and self-hate, the father decides on vigilante justice, and inadvertently pulls Eddie into an intended execution and suicide. Eddie emerges as a town hero. As in Judy Blundell's What I Saw and How I Lied (Scholastic, 2008/VOYA February 2009) and another novel in verse, Witness by Karen Hesse (Scholastic, 2001/VOYA October 2001), a powerful combination of action and reflection makes this page-turner a book that will encourage teens to question judgments and labels. Eddie, supposedly a loser from a reject family, risks his life to protect his father and then accepts his father's flaws. Coming-of-age, Eddie courageously challenges his vain and perverted teacher and pursues the girl that the town sees to be too good for him. His upwardly mobile brother who plays the system is the real failure. The array of suspects and levels of guilt in the crime will engross a wide range of older teens and spur lively discussion reaching far beyond the central murder. Reviewer: Lucy Schall
Children's Literature - Maggie Chase
This is a compelling story of Australian teenager Eddie Holding's struggle to make his war-scarred dad understand his need to work in the mines after graduating from high school. Told from the perspective of nine characters in the small town of Burrga, we soon learn that, despite the mayor's optimistic hope for the town's future, nothing will be the same after a young girl's body is found along the nearby river's edge. As Eddie does some of his own investigating and follows up on a few hunches, we also witness his ever-growing affection for Sally, a classmate, and his conflicted emotions and sense of right and wrong as he discovers disturbing truths about his neighbors, including a teacher. Beautifully written in sparse, clean, free verse ("We built this three-room log house/ that looks like a squat brown toad/ sitting on a rise/ about to jump into the Jamison River."), we are immediately drawn into the drama, the ensuing investigation, and glimpses of who Eddie will become as a man in this poignant coming of age story. Reviewer: Maggie Chase
School Library Journal

Gr 9 Up

This novel in verse tells the story of teenage Eddie Holder, who lives in a small Australian coal-mining town in the years after World War II. He longs to quit school, work in the mine, and spend time with his friend turned girlfriend, Sally. His brother, Larry, wants nothing more than to finish school and escape the town. Their father, Albert, has recently returned from the war a bitter, broken man and is determined that neither he nor his sons will ever set foot in the mine. Then a beautiful girl is murdered and suspicion falls on many of the men in the town, including the shady schoolteacher, some miners, and Albert and Larry. The story unfolds in a series of one- and two-page poems, each told from the point of view of a character. While the voices of Eddie, Larry, and Sally are strong and engaging, the poems from the adults, such as the teacher and the mayor, can be laborious. The strongest plot element is the mystery, which is well developed and has a surprising yet satisfying outcome. Some sexual scenarios make this most appropriate for older teens. Overall, a multilayered and affecting read.-Laura Amos, Newport News Public Library, VA

Kirkus Reviews
A teen confronts cowardice and first love in a rural Australian coal-mining town immediately after World War II, when he witnesses events surrounding the murder of his classmate. Eddie and his brother Larry live with their parents on the fringe of backwater Burruga. Slow, steady Eddie longs to leave school and work in the mines while smart, lazy Larry studies hard to escape. Labeled a "chicken" for driving trucks in the army and refusing to work in the mines, their angry, bitter father resents everyone. When a local girl is murdered, Eddie's sure he knows the killer, but his father has other ideas, which leads to an agonizing father-son confrontation. Written in cadenced prose poetry, the realistic, chilling story unfolds slowly through the alternating first-person, present-tense voices of Eddie, Larry, their dad, Eddie's girlfriend, the mayor, the schoolteacher, the newspaper editor, the police sergeant and the victim. Herrick's adroit use of multiple perspectives allows readers to understand the motivations of each character in what proves to be a taut and tender tale of courage and revenge. (Historical fiction. 14 & up)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781590785720
  • Publisher: Boyds Mills Press
  • Publication date: 4/1/2009
  • Pages: 279
  • Sales rank: 733,847
  • Age range: 14 - 18 Years
  • Product dimensions: 5.30 (w) x 8.30 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Steven Herrick is an award-winning poet who has performed his poems in schools, cafes, colleges, and festivals all over the world. He lives in Katoomba in the Blue Mountains, near Sydney, Australia, with his wife and two sons.

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Posted April 10, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Reviewed by Sally Kruger aka "Readingjunky" for TeensReadToo.com

    Set in a small Australian town and the area surrounding it, COLD SKIN is the story of brothers Eddie and Larry Holding, their parents, friends, and townspeople. What ties them together besides community connections is the disappearance and murder of a young girl.

    Eddie Holding is on the edge of adulthood. He'll be finished with school soon, and his dream is to put his size and strength to good use by working in the mines. It's a dangerous occupation and his father disapproves, but for years Eddie has watched the local young men leave school to work the difficult job and make a decent wage. His father, on the other hand, fought hard in the war and then came home to do a boy's job working at chore-like jobs for a neighboring farmer. Eddie has never understood why his father puts up with ridicule from the locals about his cowardly job.

    An observer of people, Eddie watches those around him.

    He watches as his older brother Larry drinks himself into a stupor each night at the local bar and then comes home to vomit in the garden and snore in bed until morning. There's the local mayor who never got a chance to fight in the war with the rest of the town's men. He spends his time bragging about his uncontested victory and gathering votes to assure he continues as leader of the town. Mr. Butcher, a high school teacher, leads a mysterious double life. During the week he teaches at the local high school and each weekend heads to the city. Eddie decides to follow his teacher one weekend and discovers he has a fondness for young girls. And speaking of young girls, Eddie experiences his first love with Sally and, at the same time, fantasizes about Colleen, whose disappearance and death tear apart the town.

    Author Steven Herrick tells the story of Burruga, Australia, in prose verse. The alternating view points give readers a glimpse into the minds and hearts of all the characters. Young Eddie guides the fast-paced story and provides the connections necessary to understand the people of this tiny town.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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    Posted August 20, 2009

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