Stefoff's exceptional biography of Herman Melville is not only accessible in language and structure, but also an exciting read. The opening chapter places Melville and a friend, who have just abandoned their whaling ship, on a Marquesas Islands beach thousands of miles from home and reputedly inhabited by cannibals. The author then smoothly backtracks to Melville's family background and childhood. Even though he was born 175 years ago, Melville faced problems familiar to contemporary young adults. His education was interrupted at age 12 by his father's death, and throughout his life, he constantly struggled to find a balance between making a living and expressing his monumental creative gifts. His early adulthood, prior to his marriage and the birth of his children, was filled with extraordinary adventure. He sailed on whaling ships and in the U.S. Navy, experiences that formed the basis of several of his books. Only his early novels were commercial and critical successes. He suffered from bouts of depression, and encouraged by his family, he took a position in the New York customs house, where he worked for 20 years. He wrote one last masterpiece before his death, "Billy Budd", which was published posthumously. Stefoff skillfully integrates interesting literary analyses of Melville's novels with the facts of his life. Her stirring first chapter, the clarity of her writing, and her focus on portions of Melville's life of particular interest to young adults afford a biography that provides them with a better understanding of Melville's life and may even inspire them to read "Moby-Dick". The book is well researched and cited, with references and a chronology as well as a bibliography of recommended further reading.