Summary: When their parents die in a car crash caused by a drunk driver, brothers Michael and Brent are split up among their relatives. While Brent gets to stay in Marten with his aunt and grandfather, Michael is sent to St. Albert to live with his other aunt and uncle and his two cousins. Michael soon builds a bond with his cousin Curtis, but Michael’s uncle becomes increasingly controlling and aggressive making Michael’s home life miserable. Events at school lead to Michael getting a two-week expulsion, and his uncle’s reaction is enough to inspire Michael and Curtis to set off on their own adventure back to Marten.
Number of Pages: 170
Age Range: 13-15
Review: Hold Fast is a classic Canadian story about survival against the elements, and Kevin Major’s first book. It was recently made into a movie that was released in Newfoundland and Nova Scotia last year, but should hopefully be released in other Canadian cities this year. I can’t wait!
Faced with butting heads with an abusive uncle after his parents die, Michael makes the decision to go back to live with his grandfather, aunt and brother, proving along the way that he and his cousin Curtis can survive on their wits alone. Michael and Curtis’ willingness to take control of their situation by proving themselves in the wilderness of Newfoundland is powerful, and surprisingly realistic.
While Michael is the main character and an admirable one when it comes to how he cares for his grandfather and brother, Curtis, Michael’s cousin, is my favourite. Seemingly quiet and timid, afraid of displeasing his father in any way, Major reveals Curtis as a runaway adventurer willing to take a stand by the end of the book. Plus he’s an avid reader, which also makes him extremely likable.
With some serious elements, Hold Fast is an enjoyable adventure read for younger teen readers.
“It was just that Marten was the best darn place I knew to live. God, what was I talking about, it was the only place I ever did live. Of course, you can almost count the number of people on one hand. Not really, but going by some places in Newfoundland, Marten is pretty small. Probably no more than seven hundred people all together. But that didn’t matter. In fact, I liked it that way cause it gave us all kinds of room to be roaming around. I could put on the boots and leave the back of the house and in no more than two minutes I’d be up in the country, out of sight of any house in the place. Go on all day then, if I wanted, and not see a single soul.” – Michael from Hold Fast by Kevin Major, page 17
“Some people got the idea that a kid his age could get over something like what happened in no time. they didn’t know much if that’s what they thinks.” – Michael from Hold Fast by Kevin Major, pages 19-20
“Some fellows I knows haven’t got no time for their grandparents. Like they figures it’s not very smart to be saying much that’s good about them. Or about any old people, for that matter. Like what they thinks or says is too old-fashioned for them. Or maybe it’s because the grandparents they got are too contrary. I don’t know. But me and Grandfather wasn’t one bit like that. We got along great, better than I done with some my own age.” – Michael from Hold Fast by Kevin Major, pages 21-22
“One thing I did know for sure – I wasn’t too fussy about some of the things girls’ll do if they likes you. Some girls have this stupid way of showing other people they’re hooked up with somebody. They’ll mark their school books all up. That’s a sure sign of something – every square inch of white space inside their books filled in. So-and-so loves so-and-so. Inside hearts, around in circles, up one side of the page, down the other. No such thing as being secret about it. I believe they must change books when they change boyfriends. I don’t get off on that atall. It’s like they’ve captured upi and got their branding iron put to work.” – Michael from Hold Fast by Kevin Major, page 83
“Not one lousy person believed what I said except Curtis. And that was only because he was in the school and he knew the rights of everything. That’s what bugs me! Every friggin time the ones that thinks they knows it all are the ones who are never there when it happens.” – Michael from Hold Fast by Kevin Major, page 99
“We both knew that what we was on wasn’t no running away from home and never coming back deals. We wasn’t on the lookout for no circuses to join. We’d been out to prove something. And by then, maybe we’d done it.” – Michael from Hold Fast by Kevin Major, pages 150-151
“I caught myself half on the bawl last night after I was in bed. There’s still that time after every day when, no matter how much I’ve done, everything gets quiet, and I’m alone with all that’s happened and I feels like bawling. But I drove it out of my system last night and that might be the end of it. It was a hard bloody thing to do, but I thinks that maybe I got it done.” – Michael from Hold Fast by Kevin Major, page 170
Hold Fast by Kevin Major is originally published by Clarke, Irwin and Company (1978), but Groundwood Books published a 35th anniversary edition in 2013.
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