cover image Bearmouth


Liz Hyder. Norton Young Readers, $18.95 (256p) ISBN 978-1-324-01586-4

“Inspired by the real-life experiences of miners in Victorian times,” debut author Hyder’s ambitious coal mining thriller stars narrator Newt, a young person who questions the deplorable conditions in the Bearmouth mine. Newt, called a “YouNuck. Not one thing or the uvver,” by the other miners, lives down in the mine, receiving paltry wages, meager food rations, and barely adequate clothing, and using candles for light. Mining accidents and violence regularly cause death, and the miners largely accept their precarious fate, conditioned by the religion of “the Mayker” to yield to exploitation. Inspired by Thomas, a father figure (and the tale’s only person of color) who teaches Newt “my letters,” and Devlin, a new arrival with a rebellious spirit, Newt begins to ask why they must suffer. Hyder heightens the tension by juxtaposing homey, domestic moments with terrifying episodes, including a scene of sexual assault. Newt’s phonetically spelled first-person narration makes some words difficult to decipher, but persistent readers should relish Hyder’s ambitious, atmospherically rendered commentary on oppressive work situations and child labor. Ages 13–up. [em]Agent: Allison Hellegers, Stimola Literary Studio. (Sept.) [/em]