by Janet Taylor Lisle
Opening line: “A rumrunner had lived in town, one of the notorious outlaws who smuggled liquor during the days of Prohibition, that was the rumor.”
David wants to be come a reporter and so he decides to look into the story. Over time he forms a connection with Ruben Hart, who tells him what happened to the Black Duck, a famous rumrunning boat, all those years ago.
This was a book that I probably should have liked a bit more than I did. It takes an interesting time in a American history, with a tie to a specific story and illuminates it without feeling too much like a history lesson in the guise of fiction. These are all excellent things, and yet I didn’t love it. I wanted to know what was going to happen, but I didn’t form any great attachment to the characters.
Part of this is the fact that David’s character isn’t very fully developed–I felt as if he was basically a plot device, a way for Lisle to have Ruben tell his story. That’s fine, I suppose, except that without much connection between him and the reader, the overall emotion of the book got pushed away.
The other major problem I had is actually related–that the emotional heart of the story seemed to be largely absent. There are some serious situations here, and the characters do respond with some emotion. And yet it never packed any punch for me.
So overall, if you’re interested in Rhode Island, or Prohibition history, or history in general, it’s a fine book. The story is an interesting one and, like I said, it illuminates a moment in time that I wouldn’t otherwise know much about. But if you’re looking for something to really touch you, you’ll probably have to look somewhere else.
Book source: public library
Book information: Puffin, 2007; YA