4.6 15
by Melissa Lion

View All Available Formats & Editions

Marty’s small town in Alaska is the most beautiful place in the world. There she and her beloved boyfriend, Steven, can walk through fields of fireweed, explore the wild, and tie pink floozy fishing lures to catch the salmon that swim upstream. But when she starts her senior year, Marty must return to school by herself. Without Steven. Something happened…  See more details below


Marty’s small town in Alaska is the most beautiful place in the world. There she and her beloved boyfriend, Steven, can walk through fields of fireweed, explore the wild, and tie pink floozy fishing lures to catch the salmon that swim upstream. But when she starts her senior year, Marty must return to school by herself. Without Steven. Something happened during the summer that changed things forever.

It’s a small town and people are starting to talk; Marty can feel their stares and hear their whispers. But they weren’t there and they don’t know. Only Marty knows what really happened, and it’s something she must never, ever tell.

From the Hardcover edition.

Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature
The high school years can be tough, even in the best of times. Marty's senior year in Homer—a small town in Alaska—is proving to be beyond difficult. Her boyfriend Steven died over the summer, a result of a tragic accident that is only revealed in snippets in the latter part of the book. Marty's job at the local movie theatre is her true escape, and the owner's have just informed her that they are selling to a young woman from California named Katherine. Marty's life is completely in limbo. She is able to rely upon her fun and funky family, two sisters and mom (dad is absentee but appears now and then when they really need him) for support during this hollow time. The physical descriptions of the Alaskan landscape and lifestyle are enough to warrant reading this book as they convey a beauty unknown and unappreciated by many. This is a thoughtful book, communicating real sadness and anguish without heavy handedness, and intertwined with hope, without the slightest bit of sappiness. It gives a highly-evocative portrayal of grief. Highly recommended. 2005, Wendy Lamb Books, Ages 12 up.
—Cindy L. Carolan
You may recall that Melissa Lion wrote an article in KLIATT's March '05 issue, after the publication of her first YA novel, Swollen. Upstream continues to demonstrate her skill and her commitment to her YA readers: it's a wonderful story set in Alaska, narrated by a young woman recovering from a tragedy. Marty is the oldest of three sisters living with their mother, who works with the Northern Dames, an all-female road construction company. Their father is supportive, but rarely there. We only get hints at first about the disaster. We know Marty lost Steven, whom she loved deeply. She is trying to get through her last year of high school, but she is grieving even as she survives each day. We learn that Steven was an accomplished outdoorsman, who could hunt, fish, and survive in the Alaskan wilderness. Gradually, we discover that Marty had something to do with his death, but we don't know exactly what until near the end of the novel. The sisters are amazingly close and loving, as is their mother—Marty would not get through this crisis without their strength and quiet support. A teacher at school, a young woman who moves into town from California to run the little movie theater where Marty works part time, the local policeman—each is a testament to how essential it is to quietly love a person who is hurting. Alaska itself, where Melissa Lion goes to fish, becomes real for those of us who don't know much about it—the whales, the fly-fishing, the dark cold of winter, the cozy social life in a small town (Northern Exposure comes to mind)—the reader has some sense of Alaska's uniqueness while immersed in Upstream. The irony is that Marty chooses to leaveAlaska at the end, attending a college in Hawaii that will enable her to start anew, putting the sorrow behind her, but still keeping her close to the ocean she loves. A memorable story. KLIATT Codes: JS*—Exceptional book, recommended for junior and senior high school students. 2005, Random House, Wendy Lamb, 149p., Ages 12 to 18.
—Claire Rosser
School Library Journal
Gr 7 Up-Martha's boyfriend dies in the Alaskan bush the summer before her senior year. In school, she can see the pity in her classmates' eyes. Old women in town pat her on the hand. Her loving, unconventional mother and sisters use humor and affection to help her cope. Katherine, a 28-year-old Californian, buys the movie theater where Martha works, and the teen is thrilled to meet someone who doesn't know about her tragedy. Their friendship, her family's support, and the sensual pleasures and hardships of Alaskan life move the plot along as Martha struggles to reconcile her loss. In the opening sequence, she breaks into Steven's abandoned house and tries to conjure him up from the smells. Her numb sadness is palpable and sets the mood for the story. The novel is gracefully paced by the teen's fragile, careful account of his persona, their love, and the impossibly painful circumstances of his death. Though some early dialogue is cloying, the characters quickly bloom through conversation. Martha banters with her 16-year-old sister as if they were two parts of a whole. She and Katherine dish and divulge with mutual respect. When Martha quotes Steven, his charm, humor, and kindness are vivid and heartbreaking-she brings him uncannily back to life. Lion's imagery occasionally seems studied, but more often her descriptions, especially of emotion or moment, are resonant and truthful. Recommend this novel to savvy reluctant readers; it is an emotionally complex story told clearly, poignantly, and economically.-Johanna Lewis, New York Public Library Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
In a small Alaskan town where sunlight-or the lack thereof-dominates everyone's lives, senior Marty narrates this understated yet compelling story that pulls readers into the mystery surrounding the loss of her naturalist boyfriend, Steven. As Marty's involvement is slowly revealed throughout the year, this "true Alaska girl" realizes that she must leave the land she loves once she has graduated from high school. Juxtaposed to Marty is Katherine, the new owner of the movie theater where Marty works, who has relocated to Alaska to escape her past. From Marty, Katherine learns to fly fish; from Katherine, Marty learns that change can be healing. Also of interest in the story are the alternative family dynamics that make up the norm of Alaskan life. Marty's mother is a supervisor on an all-female construction crew, while her father makes occasional but meaningful visits when his Coast Guard ship is docked. Lion continues to be a YA author to watch. (Fiction. YA)

Read More

Product Details

Random House Children's Books
Publication date:
Sold by:
Random House
File size:
2 MB
Age Range:
12 Years

Read an Excerpt

I've snuck into his house through the window he snuck out of so many nights. It is nearly midnight, but it's the last day of summer, and so the night sky is a burning purple, the final moments of sunset. Not the deep black of the winter night. I know I should be home, in my own bed, waiting for morning, for the first day back to school. But I want to be with him, though I know he's not here. The house is completely empty of him, his mom, his brother. All of them are gone--furniture, posters, sounds of boys laughing. But there are shreds of them left in this house. There is a smell of wet leaves and dirt--the smell of him after he ran across the field of fireweed to my window in the dark. As I kneel on the floor, in the blue light I see streaks from sneakers and hiking boots and waders. And I stand and face the huge diamond-shaped window that looks out at the bay and to Iliamna, a pulsing blue peak two hundred miles away.
He was there, close to me, his arms around me, whispering like he had so many times. "Iliamna, that's you. Redoubt is Dottie, and Spurr is Gwen. The three sisters," he said, his arm over my shoulder, pointing at the range that looked so close because of its size. Iliamna was closest and looked the largest but was the shortest of the three. And Spurr was just a smudge in the sky, but it was the tallest peak on the range.
I turn from the window and drag my finger in the dust. Spiderwebs pull and pop as I break their delicate holds.
I open my sleeping bag and take off my shoes. I climb in with my jeans on. As I lay my head on my bunched-up sweatshirt, I catch a glimpse of a light in the cottonwood near my house. I drag the sleeping bag to the window and look closer, squinting. From the ground I can see our fort. I didn't know it could be seen. When we were kids, Dottie and I had checked it from the car and from a cottonwood across the field and it was never visible. But here on the floor of his house, I can see right to it. And inside there is a candle burning.
Dottie started disappearing during the day while Mom was at work and Gwen had a playdate and I was supposed to be cleaning or cooking or reading when all I really wanted to do was lie in bed and stare at the ceiling. She'd been fixing it. She'd been turning it back into a fort, instead of some planks of wood weathered and rotting in a tree. I knew she had fixed it well. She had built our shed and the shelves in the garage. She often said she would build her own log cabin one day. And this was her first attempt.
The candle burns bright in the little fort. It flickers and throws shadows, and then it is still again. She is up there with Sean. The boy she loves, but always says she doesn't. She is with him in the night, though she never agrees to bring him to the movie theater or goes with him to dances. And everyone at school knows they're a couple, though she never sits with him and never holds his hand. I watch that candle and as I grow sleepy, my eyes nearly shut, I see what I know will happen. The candle almost flickers out and then burns as bright as the sun, the whole tree lit, and for just one moment that fort burns, and then the fire fades back to a candle flame, and then two fingers reach out to snuff that final bit of light.
I know it will happen because it used to be that way for me and Steven, when we were alone in the night. The two of us under his tent in the back of his truck. Or alone in the movie theater if I had worked the closing shift. I know that burning, and now that he's gone, I know I'll never have it again.

I wake early with the rising sun. I roll my sleeping bag, put my shoes on and walk down the road to my house. It's silent inside, Mom gone to work, my sisters still asleep. I check on Gwen, who's drooled a large spot on her pillow in the night, and see Dottie tucked in, peaceful. Without her makeup she looks like the little girl she used to be. She looks like Gwen. I shower and make tea and eggs for them and slowly they wander in.
"Morning, girlies."
"Morning, Marty," says Gwen, and kisses me with sticky lips.
"Sister," says Dottie.
"Dorothy Ann," I say, and kiss the top of her head. She grunts and tries to dodge me, but I put my arms around her just to drive her crazy. She smells like a campfire.
"I hope everyone is ready for a new school year. Gwen, more boys for you to chase with scissors, and Dottie, with so many days to ditch ahead of you, how do you stand it?"
Dottie raises her mug of tea to her lips and with the other hand gives me the finger behind Gwen's back.
Gwen is scooping eggs into her mouth, and I sit with them and push my eggs around, because for the first time I am scared to go to school. I'm scared because Steven won't be there and everyone will know, they'll know what happened and why I'm sitting by myself.
My sisters finish and I wash the plates and yell at them to get ready faster. Gwen needs her jeans rolled--Mom bought them too big. I find Dottie back in bed and have to sit on her butt to get her out again.
"You suck." Her face is stuffed into the pillow.
"You too, though more often, like last night."
She rolls over, heaving me off the bed. "Martha, don't even try it. Mom would never believe you anyway."
"Just get up," I say, and slam her door, though I'm not mad, and I'm not going to tell Mom. I just want her to get up, because I'm not walking into school alone.
I drive the Jeep with the top pulled back and the heater on and I know I drive too fast. Flower bouquets and crosses line the road. Head-ons, black ice, cars driving off the road. But we're late and I hate being the reason for it. We pull up to Gwen's school and she jumps out, her backpack loaded and drooping. She waves and turns.
"She looks like a beetle," Dottie says. And she does and I want to cry, seeing her go, though she doesn't turn. She loves school. She loves the kids there. She voluntarily took summer classes, painting and Spanish and drama, though none really interested her. She came home with stories about the kids and the teacher and herself.
"Bye, beetle butt," I call.
She runs back to the car and kisses me again, this time with minty lips, and she turns and runs to the door.
"Ready, sis?" says Dottie, and puts her hand on mine.
"It's okay. They've had all summer to get used to it."
"I hope so. Where's your makeup?" It's the first time I've noticed that she isn't wearing her normal war paint. Her lips are glossy and pale, and her deep blue eye shadow is gone.
"Natural look this year."
"How long did it take to put the natural look on?"
"A little less than the mob moll look I used to work."
"You look pretty."
"I think you'd look prettier with your foot on the pedal and your hand on the shift."
"Too sweet." I pull out and squeal the tires on the driveway. Let them think even worse things about us. The three sisters and our mom living alone. Dad coming home only once in a while without warning when his Coast Guard ship docks.

From the Hardcover edition.

Read More

Meet the Author

Melissa Lion works at an independent bookstore in San Francisco. She is the author of Swollen.

From the Hardcover edition.

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Write a Review

and post it to your social network


Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews >

Upstream 4.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 15 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Im more into historical fiction books, but this one was really good. Not a lot of books are written about small-town Alaska life. This book had a really good plot.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was amazing. Most of the characters are female and very strong. The main character Martha(Marty) is struggling through the school year after a dramatic summer when her boyfriend Steven is killed. From the first page there is a mystery about this book. Martha has trouble forgetting but in the end she stays strong and gets over her fear of the future.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Im here
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
"May i join."
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
"Can i join lionclan?" He mews as he pads in.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
No. Puffin first result. She meowed. Gingerstar
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Brambletalon followed Gingerstar to puffin.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Seastar is my momny
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Cowers as the she cat comes over
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Hi.....on friday i wony be on nor saterday nor half of sunday...eastern time.i am going to encounter for church
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
i rp as hearstar of heartclan, scarpaw of fearclan, Mossflower featherpaw goldpaw an greenpa of thunderclan, twixpaw of marshmellowclan, heterpaw of i think firecn, and other cats.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Frgive me for not being on. Ive been very busy with prom easter school rk and u kniw ive recently been engaged. I have just hqd my wisdom teeth pulled.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
We r moving here