CITY/TOWN: North Vancouver

DATE OF BIRTH: July 22, 1956


AWARDS: Dancing Naked: ALA Quick Pick 2000, CLA/ YA Honour Book 2002, White Pine Award (Ontario Readers Choice Award) 2002.

Allegra by Shelley Hrdlitschka was nominated for YALSA's Best Fiction for Young Adults list. YALSA is a division of the American Library Association.

In 2008, Shelley Hrdlitschka introduced the fictional, polygamous community of Unity with her novel, Sister Wife, nominated for a Governor General's Award. Its Bountiful-like leader called the Prophet had 26 wives and 90 children. Fifteen-year-old Celeste instinctually questions the strict doctrines and befriends a mutually skeptical boy, Jon. Caught kissing, he runs away before he can be banished by the Prophet. In a sequel, Lost Boy (Orca 2018), Jon is unprepared for life outside Unity and struggles with alcohol, drugs and homelessness.

Lost Boy by Shelley Hrdlitschka
(Orca $14.95)

Review by Carol Anne Shaw

Each day is much like the previous one in Unity. Seventeen-year-old Jon must spend hours toiling in fields, working construction, caring for younger siblings, and studying the scriptures under the watchful eye of The Prophet.
The Prophet cannot be questioned. But, at seventeen, Jon finds himself wondering why a man should have at least three wives before he can get into heaven; why short-sleeved shirts are forbidden, along with listening to music of any kind.

After being caught kissing a girl, Jon decides he must leave Unity before he is banished.

That?s the set-up for Lost Boy, Shelley Hrdlitschka?s sequel to Sister Wife (Orca, 2008) which was set in the same fictitious polygamous community.
After hitchhiking to the nearby town of Springdale, Jon is taken in by Abigail, a former Unity member who has made it her mission to help the ?polgys? or ?lost boys.? She, too, has strict rules, but unlike The Prophet?s, hers are fair and evenly balanced. Everyone is treated with kindness and respect.

With Abigail?s encouragement, Jon manages to find work in construction. He discovers he is way out of his depth. He misses his family, and he misses the predictability of his former days. His new world is foreign and unsettling. A stranger to formal schooling, Jon falls behind with his studies. He has never been taught to think critically. It isn?t long before Jon finds himself spiraling into a life of drugs, alcohol, and homelessness.

While Jon?s descent into addiction is quick, it feels authentic. Lost Boy is told in first person/present tense?a style that places the reader right in the middle of the drama and action.

Part two begins with a bit of a jolt. Jon has clearly hit the skids. He?s living in a crappy apartment, drinking at work, smoking pot, and there are girls.
??Charlie tosses me a beer, and I snag it out of the air. I shouldn?t have another one. I?ve already had a few and have to work in the morning, but I?m the only one here who has to get up early, so it?s not like I?m going to get any sleep anyway. The couch is my bed, and it?s groaning under the weight of the people crowded on it. Now I know why this place is called a butt hut.
?I?m on the couch with my arm around Belle. She?s snuggled in deep. Pot always makes her mellow. I hope she?s planning to stay all night on this couch with me.?

Bright and compassionate, Jon must not only learn how the ?real world? works; more importantly, he has to learn who he is without the narrow-minded programming of The Prophet. This story credibly shows how easy it can be to fall into hard times when you have no real sense of who you are.
Compelling and well-written, Lost Boy had me on #TeamJon right from the get-go. The novel ends with potential for a third story about the young people who grew up in Unity?the girls in particular. 9781459816374

Carol Anne Shaw is the author of the ?Hannah? books, all from Ronsdale Press. She lives in the Cowichan Valley on Vancouver Island.


The Grizzlies of Grouse Moutain: The True Adventures of Coola and Grinder (Orca 2019) $19.95 978-1-77203-277-2. With Rae Schidlo. Illustrations by Linda Sharp.
Lost Boy (Orca 2018) $14.95 978-1-4598-1637-4
Dancing in the Rain (Orca 2016) Ages 12+ $14.95 9781459810655
Allegra (Orca 2013) $12.95 978-1-4598-0197-4
Sister Wife, 2008, Orca Book Publishers $12.95 9781551439273
Gotcha!, 2008, Orca Book Publishers
Sun Signs, 2005, Orca Book Publishers
Kat's Fall, 2004, Orca Book Publishers
Dancing Naked, 2001, Orca Book Publishers
Tangled Web, 2000, Orca Book Publishers
Disconnected, 1998, Orca Book Publishers
Beans on Toast, 1998, Orca Book Publishers

[BCBW 2018] "Kidlit"