In the first of her trilogy series, Wabanaki Blues, Melissa Tantaquidgeon Zobel introduces gifted blues guitarist character Mona Lisa LaPierre, a musician who rarely smiles.
Mona LaPierre is a high school senior. She is on her countdown to graduation and it cannot come fast enough. Mona's best friend is unlike most girl's best friends. Her name is Rosalita and she has six strings and is capable of belting out some of the grittiest blues at the command of Mona's adept fingers. Rosalita is her saving grace in many respects given her parents are 'out there.' Her mother pines daily for any life other than the one she has. Her father, on the other hand, studies bears. He doesn't just study them, he educates ad nauseum at the University on the subject and spans the globe in search of further knowledge of these creatures in order to impose his intellect onto the captive audience of his students.
Mona talks with dead people. Her strongest connection and the one who provides constant guidance and insight is 'Bilki' her recently deceased grandmother. Bilki was Mona's mom, Lila's, mother. Raised traditionally among her people, the Mohegan Indians, Bilki and Grumps brought Lila into the world and, in turn, Lila delivered Mona to the universe. Of course, Lila had no intentions of raising her child in Indian Stream, New Hampshire. She beat feet as fast as she could convince them to move and established roots with Mona's dad in Connecticut. As far as Lila was concerned, the 'traditional' life she knew growing up was a memory she would gladly forget once she left. However, there are doors that continue to remain open. Unbeknownst to Mona, she is about to be the chosen one to travel back to New Hampshire and, hopefully, close the ephemeral doors once and for all.
Ms. Zobel weaves intriguing and interesting information into the storyline of Wabanaki Blues throughout the telling of the story. She is a Medicine Woman of the Mohegan Indian Tribe and because of her personal knowledge and experience, there is instant credibility to this work of fiction. Mona LaPierre's character dons the all-too-familiar characteristics of a not-quite-adult, but certainly beyond temper tantrum young lady struggling with the complexities of growing up versus remaining a child. Zobel adds to Mona's conflict by introducing not one, but two young men whose characters are polar opposites, yet Mona has interest in both. Zoble infuses detailed prose toward a traditional 'pow wow' that takes place and is quite generous with her descriptions of how young and old blend and unite as they deliver their culture and deeply-seeded traditions through dance to the summer tourists. I applaud Ms. Zobel for delivering a body of work that passes muster in that it will capture the interest of her target YA audience immediately and maintain attention throughout the read.
Quill says: Wabanaki Blues is a clean and wholesome YA read worthy of finding its place upon many school bookshelves.