3 out of 4 stars
Share This Review
The novel 450 East shows a young man, 17-year-old judo black belt and champion runner John Sebrook, who is forced to grow up quickly when his parents Mark and Carol die when their private plane crashes. John, used to the Santa Monica, California charmed life, is whisked away to rural Indiana to live with farmers Paul and Kathy, paternal grandparents he barely knows. (Paul and his son Mark had a big rift many years ago which was never patched up.)
At first, John strongly believes he can never be a farmer and plans to return to California as soon as the chance arises. But once he meets the neighbor’s pretty teenage daughter Madison, he quickly has a change of heart.
After several months of adjusting to his new routine of dating in lakes and deer stands and assisting his grandfather in working acres of soybean and corn, it seems that John is going to be a happy boy again. However, he soon makes shocking discoveries that rock his still unstable world. He finds out about his heritage as a Miami Indian, gets drawn to a mysterious blue light that suddenly appears in the woods on certain nights, and learns a family secret that had been buried for over thirty years.
The book is categorized as a young adult read in the historical fiction genre. From the “Author’s Reflections” at the beginning of the book, we know that D.R. Vervalin desires the American youth to appreciate their Indian ancestors more. As someone who is himself fascinated by the names of places in his native Indiana (like Fort Defiance, Wabash, and Wapakoneta), he feels that the average American youth needs to know about the rich history behind those names. The book definitely but subtly gives the readers interesting Indian stuff to chew on (tidbits about American-Indian battles, including a sketch of Indian Chief Little Turtle, animal spirit guides, the creator god Gichi Manidoo, and the happenings at a powwow) without ramming it down their throats.
The characters are well-formed and one will appreciate their growth (even the grandparents had some growing up to do!) throughout the story. The story focuses on the teenage characters John and Madison, and the reader roots for them to overcome their various challenges including Calculus, unfair school rules, and unnerving mysterious happenings.
The title 450 East pertains to the location of the Sebrook homestead near Fort Wayne (which used to be the Miami Kekionga village). The fields, parks, woods and other locations are described in picturesque detail. An accompanying map would be good though, especially as the author gives historical information about most places.
The story flows smoothly and the discoveries are paced well. The ending is unexpected but totally satisfying. There are some questions that are left unanswered which can well be used for a sequel if the author so desires.
While I find the story entertaining, there are some organizational improvements needed. One, the e-book (PDF version in my case) does not have a table of contents; thus, navigating to the chapters is hampered. Two, the titling of the chapters is confusing: the use of dates and locations is not effective as the chapters span several days and several locations. Three, while the author’s writing style is easy to follow, there are times when the reading is distracted by unannounced changes in points of view. Four, there is a need to tighten some scenes where the continuity is compromised (Chapters 10 and 11 relative to work on the toolshed is one).
The book also needs better editing. There are several mistakes, such as the following: the daughter-in-law is called a stepdaughter, the Friday-night homecoming dance is referred to as a Saturday event, and Chapter 7 lacks paragraph indentations. There are grammatical errors like misused punctuation, sentence fragments, and misspellings (“fuel” for “full,” “brain” for “bran,” and “hoped” for “hopped” are a few). There are also superfluous details included, specifically in the first three chapters where John’s parents are introduced and their activities expounded on.
In summary, I award 450 East with a rating of 3 out of 4 stars. It is an endearing read featuring loving families and mostly kindhearted people and a learning experience about Miami Indian tradition and folklore. With a good editor who will trim the superfluous pages and iron out the technical wrinkles, a perfect rating will not be far behind.
This book will be an exhilarating read for young adults who will surely enjoy the depiction of driving the first wheels, the nervous anticipation of homecoming night, the thrill of teenage romance, and the comfort of good family relationships. It is also good for city kids who want to know about life in the rural areas and the beauty of “amber waves of grain.” There might be an issue though about the extreme injuries John inflicts on his opponents; parental guidance may be necessary. The older crowd will also appreciate the book for the good story and the interesting Indian trivia. In terms of learning more about the Native American heritage, reading 450 East is surely a step in the right direction.
View: on Bookshelves
Like Miriam Molina's review? Post a comment saying so!