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Shaken    by Eric Walters order for
by Eric Walters
Order:  USA  Can
Doubleday Canada, 2011 (2011)
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Eric Walters, author of We All Fall Down and Safe as Houses, now brings us another story of young people dealing with, and making sense of, a catastrophic event, in this case Haiti's devastating earthquake of January 2009.

Shaken begins with a mission trip from Canada to Port-au-Prince, Haiti, during which fifteen-year-old Joshua tries to keep a low profile, embarrassed to be accompanying his minister father. He's annoyed by the woman, Iris, who seems interested in his father, believing her one of those 'groupies who seem to be drawn to ministers.' His fearful (since their mother's death a few months before) younger sister Sarah is also with them.

On the plane Josh befriends Naomi, who has a fear of flying. She is diabetic and needs regular doses of insulin. Naomi fills Josh in on Haiti, 'the poorest country in the western world.' When they arrive, they're met by Pastor David, with whom Josh is immediately more at ease than with his father - they talk frankly about Josh's shaken faith. The group heads to an orphanage in the mountains where they will be building a new dormitory. Josh gets along well with the head boy, Philippe, and they work well together.

Then, after Josh's dad, Sarah and Pastor David head into Port-au-Prince for supplies, the earthquake strikes. Josh and Philippe act as leaders in the small community's reaction to the crisis, which involves rescues and a tragic death. When Naomi runs out of insulin, Josh decides they must go towards Port-au-Prince (despite the looting and violence) and the Canadian Embassy there, hoping to meet his father's party along the way.

It's quite an adventure for Josh, Philippe and Naomi, one that might have ended very badly but for a surprising encounter at the last minute. And it's a true coming of age for Josh who, though he's still not sure he's a believer, concludes that 'we need to act like there is a God ... no matter what, we have to try to do the right thing.' Shaken is an inspiring and thoughtful read, not to be missed.

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