Fish House Secrets


127 pages
ISBN 0-920633-91-9
DDC C813'.54





Reviewed by Dave Jenkinson

Dave Jenkinson is Associate Dean of the Faculty of Education at the
University of Manitoba.


Stinson, an accomplished picture-book writer, successfully displays some
interesting stylistic devices in her first young-adult novel. Limiting
the action to a single July weekend, she utilizes two alternating
narrators whose lives accidentally become intertwined.

Torontonian Chad Merrill, 15, and his father are spending another
summer with Chad’s grandparents at their Dutchman’s Bay cottage on
Nova Scotia’s south shore, but this year is different, for Chad’s
artist mother died eight months earlier in an auto accident. Still
experiencing unresolved grief, Chad also feels guilt: his mother’s
death occurred while she was on her way to pick him up from a school
activity. Feeling smothered by his father’s newfound, constant
attention, Chad also seemingly cannot resume the painting he once
joyfully shared with his mother.

Haligonian Jill Croft, the other central character, had been managing
to cope with an unsettled home life, until her unemployed wastrel father
gambled away monies saved for her cherished dance lessons. The teens
meet when Jill, now a runaway, gets lost, spends the night in the
Merrills’ deserted barn, and, the following morning, is forced by
hunger to approach Chad. A sympathetic Chad hides Jill in an unused fish
house; the pair share their secret unhappinesses, and, as they begin to
find resolutions to their family problems, they become emotionally and
romantically linked.

Stinson has populated her book with believable characters, including
two very likable adolescents, and middle-school readers of both genders
will delight in the emotional immediacy of the dual first-person
narratives. The author has also constructed powerfully evocative word
pictures of the Nova Scotia setting.

The old maxim about not judging a book by its cover definitely does not
apply to Fish House Secrets, for Iris Hauser’s enticingly attractive
cover illustration accurately mirrors the book’s contents.

A must purchase for collections serving teens!


Stinson, Kathy., “Fish House Secrets,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed July 14, 2024,