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Joy of Apex by N. Folger

Folger, Napatsi.  Joy of Apex.  Iqaluit:  Inhabit Media, Inc., 2011. Print.

This is a first novel from Napatsi Folger, who grew up in Iqaluit, moved to Vancouver and then returned as an adult to work in Iqaluit.  She has given us a bright new heroine in Joy, a ten-year old girl who lives in Apex, just outside of Iqaluit in Nunavut.  Joy, who tells the story in the first person, is quite a normal pre-teen.  She generally wants to do well, but occasionally does silly things like calling little sister, Allusha, by the nickname “ALLA SUCKS”.

From the beginning of the novel, it is clear that Joy has a heavier than normal family workload for a ten-year old.  Her dad is doing most of the cooking and cleaning and Joy and her older brother, Alex, are looking after each other and Alla.  They look out for each other at school, make their own Halloween costumes and solve their own problems.  Their mother, Mary, who spends most of her time with her sisters, does come home occasionally. When she does, she and her husband fight, with predictable effects on the children.

“They are fighting again.  This time it sounds like a big one. The yelling wakes Allusha and we are so frightened that we creep into Alex’s room and crawl into bed with him.  After Alex and I calm Allusha’s quite sobs, the three of us sleep together in a little nest for the rest of the night.”

Joy’s voice is authentic for a ten year old, who is doing her best to cope while her parents’ marriage falls apart.  It is hard not to be moved by her humiliation, anger and pain when her best attempts fail and there is no mom to prevent the disaster or pick up the pieces.

Folger’s humour often provides some relief from the weight of the difficulties that Joy faces.  For example, when Allusha eats too much candy, throws up and bursts the capillaries in her face, she tells her mother, “Don’t worry, Mama.  It’s just burst caterpillars in my face.”

This is a well-written volume and an engaging read.  The work is clearly rooted in the author’s personal experience growing up in the Eastern Arctic. Pre-teens through adult readers will enjoy this book.  Highly recommended for public libraries and school libraries everywhere.

Reviewer:  Sandy Campbell
Highly recommended:  4 stars out of 4

Sandy is a Health Sciences Librarian at the University of Alberta, who has written hundreds of book reviews across many disciplines.  Sandy thinks that sharing books with children is one of the greatest gifts anyone can give.