"[A] gritty, realistic, coming-of-age story...[Kit] is such a likable character. She is strong-willed, sharp-tongued, and possesses one heck of a sense of humour. I have met this character before. Coincidence? I think the island breeds this type of feistiness. Regardless, Ms. Smith captures it perfectly. The language is also spot-on. Although a bit 'salty' at times, it is this verisimilitude that has readers buying into the authenticity of the story...The details of the family's hardships are not sugar-coated by any means; yet, all is not bleak. Hope exists for Kit, and it comes at the hands of forgiveness."
[Starred review] "Refreshingly, Smith chooses not to cast Phonse as an abusive alcoholic, but accurately portrays the mood swings, unpredictability, and misunderstandings of the disease...Kit is a likable, sympathetic heroine who is often funny in a goofy, endearing way. The supporting characters are equally strong...while the language convincingly evokes the novel's East Coast setting...With sprightly dialogue, relatable characters, and a story that delves into serious subject matter without becoming morose, Baygirl is a balanced, well-written debut."
"An accurate story of life in St. John's in 1992...Smith has given a different perspective on the Cod Moratorium and how it impacted the lives of fishing families who had to rebuild and retrain at an unexpected time in their life."
"Sitting at the juncture between historical and contemporary realism, Baygirl is, very much, a bildungsroman, a coming-of-age story that will captivate the attention of today's young adults...This well-crafted novel deals with the maturation and growing awareness of self and others...One of the alluring aspects of this historically realistic novel is Smith's obvious insider-knowledge of the impact that the all-too-real moratorium on the cod fishery had on the lives of ordinary Newfoundlanders who depended on this natural resource for their livelihood...Part of the charm and allure of this novel is its skilful depiction and stitching together of social and personal challenges in believable ways. And this makes it ideal for book clubs and literature discussion groups inside and outside of schools...A remarkable first novel that I vigorously recommend for students in Grade nine and up."
"A sensitive and well-crafted story, rich with humour and pathos...The author, a St. John’s native, is sympathetic to Kit and her father, neither treading into maudlin territory nor making this an 'issue of the week' type of book."
Gr 8 Up—Teen Kit Ryan learns about love and loss in this luminous young adult novel set in 1990s Newfoundland. The Canadian government has begun shutting down the cod fishing industry in order to decrease overfishing and save the country's natural resources. This decree throws a hurdle into Kit's world and her already strained relationship with her parents. The girl's alcoholic father is a cod fisherman newly out of work, and her mother struggles to make ends meet while enabling her husband's violent outbursts, leaving no room for mother-daughter bonding. The family uproots from Parsons Bay, a small fishing village, to St. John's, a city, leaving Kit's Nan and best friend behind. They move in with Uncle Iggy, a lonely, depressed, but recovering alcoholic who is still mourning the loss of his wife. Kit does not make friends easily at her new school, branded an outsider for her "baygirl" accent and unfashionable clothes. A friendship with an eccentric neighbor, Mr. Adams, and writing in her journal help her adjust to life in St. John's. When she finally begins to find her place in the new locale and even entrusts her heart to a popular boy, she is called back to her hometown to help her ailing Nan and forlorn father. Teens will connect with Smith's well-crafted characters, including the fully-formed protagonist. The tragic ending will resonate with readers, and they will root for Kit as she emerges from the other side.—Lisa Gieskes, Richland County Public Library, Columbia, SC
In the Newfoundland fishing village of Parsons Bay, Kitty has her refuges all staked out, for when she needs to hide from her father's nearly incessant drunken belligerence. Neighbor Ms. Bartlett and her Nan live nearby, and there is a cliff where she frequently meets her best friend, Anne-Marie, for solace. But it's 1992, and the cod fishery is subject to a moratorium, leaving her father suddenly without work. Hoping to find work, the family moves to live with Uncle Iggy in St. John's. The bigger city and foreign environment require that Kitty find new friends and new ways to cope. Her uncle, an elderly neighbor who favors forgiveness, and, above all, an attractive boy support Kitty and yet present her with challenges. Required to look past first glances and see the heart beneath in this new environment, Kitty in the process begins to look past her father's drunken exterior as well. Learning and accepting a bit of the why her father is incapable of facing life sober helps. Admitting that she knows that he loves her even if he can't seem to show it makes life endurable. Kitty's initial belligerence and anger, so predominant early on, modulates to a more nuanced point of view; given her growth, it's a shame the mother remains a nonentity. This first-person tale gently illustrates change, both good and bad. (Historical fiction. 12-16)