Title: Son of a Trickster
Author: Eden Robinson
Published by: Knopf Canada
My rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Where I got the book: Public library
TW: Domestic violence, drug usage
“Everyone knows a guy like Jared: the burnout kid in high school who sells weed cookies and has a scary mom who’s often wasted and wielding some kind of weapon. Jared does smoke and drink too much, and he does make the best cookies in town, and his mom is a mess, but he’s also a kid who has an immense capacity for compassion and an impulse to watch over people more than twice his age, and he can’t rely on anyone for consistent love and support, except for his flatulent pit bull, Baby Killer (he calls her Baby)–and now she’s dead.
Jared can’t count on his mom to stay sober and stick around to take care of him. He can’t rely on his dad to pay the bills and support his new wife and step-daughter. Jared is only sixteen but feels like he is the one who must stabilize his family’s life, even look out for his elderly neighbours. But he struggles to keep everything afloat…and sometimes he blacks out. And he puzzles over why his maternal grandmother has never liked him, why she says he’s the son of a trickster, that he isn’t human. Mind you, ravens speak to him–even when he’s not stoned.
You think you know Jared, but you don’t.” (Source)
When I heard that Eden Robinson was coming out with a new novel, Son of a Trickster, I was super excited. I wasn’t sure how she was going to handle the transition from literary fiction to YA, but grabbed it from the library the moment I saw it on the shelf. Son of a Trickster is a hilarious read. It’s dark in parts, following Jared who’s a teenage pothead as he struggles with his divorced parents, his family falling apart, falling in love, getting into trouble. But even in the darkest moments Robinson’s writing and humour shines through.
Robinson’s ability to write compelling characters has really expanded and the dialogue is fantastic. I’ve never read a book where dialogue read as exactly how people would speak or that made me laugh so much. Now that I’ve aged out of the demographics for YA, I find I don’t enjoy reading YA books as much as I used to. Robinson is fantastic at writing teen characters though and Son of a Trickster sucked me in so quickly. Her writing feels really true and easily brings people and their communities to life. Set in the area Robinson grew up in, Haisla territory near Kitamaat village on the central coast of British Columbia, Son of a Trickster really shines as a depiction of the town and the people living there. No one is one dimensional. Jared is hilariously sarcastic but also really kind. His mom is a troubled parent but cares the best she can. Everyone is just living their complicated lives as they deal with finding work, falling in love, relationships between parents and children, making mistakes and trying to figure life out.
One of the only problems I had with this book is how long it takes to set things up. A lot of the action happens near the end as the majority of the book feels like it’s setting up the plot for the whole trilogy. That said though, Son of a Trickster is a fantastic read and the earlier parts of the book shine as they allow the reader to dive deeper into Jared character and his life.
Although this was announced as the first book in a trilogy, there’s been no mention of the name of the series or potential release days for the other books. I really hope this book gets picked up by the larger YA community outside of Canada as it’s a fantastic, funny and very real read that adults and teens can enjoy alike.
If you’re interested in hearing more about this book, I recommend checking out some of the recent interviews Robinson has done about Son of a Trickster on CBC The Next Chapter, CBC Unreserved, and the CBC Unreserved Indigenous Reads Panel discussion on Son of a Trickster. She talks about her writing process, oral storytelling, and how she managed to get into the mindset of a teenage boy to write Jared.